Who will play right tackle for Georgia vs. Florida?

Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims (65), offensive lineman Tate Ratledge (69) and offensive lineman Sedrick Van Pran (63) celebrate as they walk off of the field following Georgia’s win against UAB at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, September 23, 2023, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 49-21. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims (65), offensive lineman Tate Ratledge (69) and offensive lineman Sedrick Van Pran (63) celebrate as they walk off of the field following Georgia’s win against UAB at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, September 23, 2023, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 49-21. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS – One of the first things the Florida Gators are going look for Saturday afternoon at EverBank Stadium is who lines up right tackle for Georgia.

At the moment, that’s an uncertainty. It looks like that will be Xavier Truss, as per usual. But the versatile 6-foot-7, 320-pound senior is coming off a sprained ankle suffered in the last game against Vanderbilt.

Meanwhile, Amarius Mims, a preseason All-American and the starter at the beginning of the season, returned to practice this week. Five weeks after tight-rope surgery to repair a high-ankle sprain, the 6-7, 340-pound junior repped with the No. 1 offense on Woodruff Practice Fields this week and participated in 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs and line coach Stacy Searels can just reinsert Mims into the starting lineup against an SEC East rival. First, nobody can be sure that Mims will play at the level he was before the injury five days after stepping back onto the practice field. Secondly, Georgia’s line has played extremely well with Truss at right tackle in the four games since Mims was sidelined.

Finally, while there remains concern whether Mims or Truss are 100% healthy, fellow tackles Monroe Freeling and Austin Blaske are completely well. Freeling, a 6-7, 310-pound freshman from Isle of Palms, S.C., came in for Truss when he went out in the second quarter against Vandy and played the rest of the way. Blaske, a 6-5, 310-pound junior, had been Mims’ primary backup before injuries took him off the field earlier this season.

Another consideration is if Truss should return to left guard, where he started from the beginning of this season. Redshirt sophomore Dylan Fairchild has been holding down the fort there since Truss moved to tackle and splitting snaps with redshirt sophomore Micah Morris.

At such a critical juncture in the season, the question is whether the Bulldogs need to risk messing with the line’s chemistry. Georgia enters week 9 as the SEC’s leader in least sacks allowed (6), which is nearly half the next closest team (Kentucky with 11). The Bulldogs also are coming off their best rushing game of the season with 291 yards against Vanderbilt.

“He’s been part of our program for three years and he’s played with the same guys on that line a ton, the starting guys, last year,” coach Kirby Smart said of Mims. “He’s played a lot this year, left and right (tackle), and they all move around. They’re all moving parts. So, chemistry’s not a factor in the decision. It’s who gives us the best chance to win.”

Right guard Tate Ratledge has played beside five different teammates to his right this season. Wednesday, he said he’s been working this week with three -- Mims, Truss and Freeling. Asked if that was unsettling, Ratledge didn’t deny it.

“To a certain extent, it is,” said Ratledge, a junior and 22-game starter. “Whenever you’re playing next to a new guy, it’s going to change some things. But I think we’ve done a really good job of morphing together as one no matter where people are and getting used to it in practice.”

More from ‘Signal-gate’

The Washington Post is reporting that Michigan targeted Georgia for “four or five games” this season as part of an elaborate signal-stealing operation. An investigative firm turned over information to the NCAA recently that includes a detailed schedule the Wolverines allegedly used to plan in-person scouting trips and video surveillance.

Orchestrated by Michigan staffer Connor Stalions, the documents and video provided to the NCAA is reported to have come off of computers belonging to the Michigan athletics department. The investigation revealed scouts were to attend eight Ohio State games, several other Big Ten opponents and “four or five” Georgia games.

The firm reported that scouts attended the 2021 SEC Championship game between the Bulldogs and Alabama. Georgia played the Wolverines in the 2021 CFB playoffs and beat coach Jim Harbaugh’s team 34-11. Smart said the Bulldogs were unaware of any of their signs being stolen in that contest.

“I don’t know anybody that’s ever done that and I’ve never been asked to do that as a young coach or known anybody to do that,” Smart said this week.

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) greets staff members before Georgia’s game against Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Saturday, September 30, 2023, in Auburn, Al.  (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Prestigious honor for McConkey

Georgia flanker Ladd McConkey was was appointed one of 16 members of the 2023 National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Award team. As such, he becomes a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented annually to the college football’s top player in terms of combining academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.

McConkey is the 15th Georgia player to make the NFF Scholar-Athlete team, tops among SEC programs and tied for sixth nationally. Each player gets an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will be recognized at the 65th NFF Annual Awards Dinner in Las Vegas at the ARIA Resort & Casino on Dec. 5. The Campbell Trophy winner will have his scholarship increased to $25,000.

McConkey is the first Bulldog since place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship to make the team. Like Blankenship, McConkey was also named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team earlier this season.

Georgia connections

Smart on Wednesday was asked about Austin Armstrong, Florida first-year defensive coordinator, who was a defensive analyst for Georgia in 2019.

“He comes from a really good defensive background, pedigree, lineage before he came to us,” Smart said. “That’s why we brought him in. He had ties to a lot of similar schemes that we had run and we knew he’d be an asset in terms of knowledge and experience and maybe bring something to the table that might be different outside the box. So,it was a good experience. I think he learned a lot from us as far as recruiting style and our defensive tree. An energetic coach like that is a benefit for both parties.”

Armstrong joined at Lousiana as linebackers coach in 2020 and remained there as defensive coordinator in 2021-22 when Billy Napier accepted the Florida job.

Russ Callaway, Florida’s tight ends coach, is the son of former Georgia offensive line coach Neil Callaway. Smart gave him his first job in college football as a defensive analyst at Alabama.

“Coach Calloway was here when I first got hired,” Smart said. “Russ is a tremendous coach. He knows football inside and out, great husband and father as well. Austin was here with us. He was a really good idea guy, always looked for a better way to do things. He didn’t feel limited by his role. He wasn’t afraid to speak up and have good ideas, which I think makes a good young coach when you think that way.”