ALBANY — Albany State has an uphill climb if it wants to turn its season around after a 1-3 start, and on Saturday the Rams will likely be starting that climb without their best receiver.
Camilla native and junior wideout Jessie Atkins has all but been ruled out of Saturday’s conference game against Lane because of a lingering left elbow injury from the Rams’ Sept. 28 loss to Miles.
“To be honest, I don’t see a possibility of me playing,” said Atkins, who is officially listed as doubtful for the game. “It’s feeling better, but I don’t want to go out there just because it’s feeling better and then make it worse and do something to end my career. I would rather sit out one game and give it the proper time to heal.”
Atkins injured his elbow in the first half against Miles and started to feel pain at halftime, but he played through the injury in the second half and finished with a season-high 13 receptions for 160 yards and two TDs.
X-rays came back negative last week, revealing that the swollen elbow was just bruised — but it’s been bruised severely enough to keep Atkins out of practice the last two weeks.
“In a way it is (frustrating), but it’s also motivation to come back and work a little harder and get better at what I do so I can maintain the position I have in the conference,” Atkins said.
Atkins leads the SIAC in receiving in every major category with 32 receptions for 401 yards and four TDs. His eight catches per game rank 13th in the country and his 100.3 yards per game rank 27th.
“That’s our best receiver,” White said. “He is a huge part of what we do and the most consistent receiver we have right now. I know he is the favorite target of (quarterback Frank Rivers), so it just means somebody else has to step up and play well.”
Rivers has tossed five TDs this season, and all but one of them have been to Atkins.
“Jessie plays a big key role in our offense, but at the same time with us knowing he might not be able to go on Saturday other guys have to step up,” Rivers said.
Mitchell County grad Jaquan Williams is a slot receiver like Atkins and could step into a starting role along with regular starters Devonte Osborne, Orion Ponder and Tevin Isom, who was questionable last week with an injury but will likely play Saturday.
On the defensive side of the ball, starting cornerback Armageddon Draughn has been ruled out for Saturday’s game after receiving a concussion against Miles, while cornerback Quintory Braswell (concussion) was cleared to play this week.
“It’s a big loss,” White said about losing Draughn for Saturday’s game. “We were looking forward to the matchup between (Draughn) and one of Lane’s top receivers.”
True freshman and former Westover star Kelderion Miller will get the start in place of Draughn, who has started all four games and has 11 tackles.