NEW ORLEANS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart said Thorpe Award winner Deandre Baker will not play in the Sugar Bowl.
The Georgia football team touched down at Louis Armstrong International Airport on Thursday afternoon, shortly after a tornado watch expired in Orleans Parish, and Baker was with the team.
Baker will not, however, take part when the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play No. 15 Texas (9-4) at 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 1 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the Sugar Bowl.
Baker originally said at the College Football Awards Show in Atlanta on Dec. 5 that he planned to play in the Sugar Bowl, and he practiced with the team through Dec. 20.
The first sign that Baker might not make the trip to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl was the night of Dec. 20, when an Instagram post appeared to indicate he was back home in South Florida.
Baker was not present at Friday’s workout, and UGA officials did not respond to requests asking his status.
Freshman quarterback Justin Fields will play in the game, even as he looks to transfer.
Fields let the Georgia football coaching staff know the week before the early signing period earlier this month that he intended to explore a transfer.
Fields’ name has been entered into the NCAA portal so that he can communicate with other coaches, even while he has practiced with the team leading up to the bowl game.
Smart has said he welcomes Fields’ participation in the bowl game and would prefer he stay with the program.
That said, Georgia signed former Ohio State commit Dwan Mathis on Dec. 19, three days after the staff contacted him to let him know they expected Fields would no longer be with the team.
Smart admitted as much at his press conference last week.
“We didn’t stay in communication with (Mathis) the whole time from that period of time,” Smart said, asked about Mathis unofficial visit in July of 2017, “until finding out Justin was leaving.”
Smart said all the players who practiced in Athens will play in the game, and that could include outside linebacker D’Andre Walker. Walker hadn’t practiced in pads since the week leading up to the SEC title game on Dec. 1, but Smart had said he expects him to be ready to practice in New Orleans.
Walker was sidelined early in the fourth quarter with Georgia holding a 28-21 lead over Alabama on account of a groin injury.
With Walker out, Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts was able to break contain on crucial plays during Alabama’s come-from-behind 35-28 victory.
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