Georgia running back Keith Marshall is one of several Bulldogs who have gotten severely injured this season. (Reuters)
ATHENS — Including summer workouts, the Georgia Bulldogs have seen five skill players go down with knee injuries and two more sidelined for the better part of the first half of the season with strained hamstrings.
For that reason, Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked Tuesday at his weekly news conference whether he thought any of the Bulldogs’ training methods or practice venues had contributed to the rash of leg injuries among skill players.
“With the ACL, I don’t think there’s anything to do with conditioning,” Richt said. “A lot of ACL injuries are freak injuries and non-contact injuries. … Obviously (running back) Keith Marshall’s was a contact injury, but ACLs, I think, don’t really have a whole lot to do with conditioning. I think most hamstrings go when there’s enough fatigue, and guys are bursting when they’re tired. The muscle just pulls. But I think we do a good job.”
To date, cornerback Reggie Wilkerson, wide receivers Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell and Camilla native Justin Scott-Wesley and Marshall have been sidelined with knee maladies. Safety Tray Matthews and wide receiver Jonathan Rumph have been out off and on since the beginning of preseason camp in August with hamstring strains. Starting tailback Todd Gurley remains sidelined with a high sprain to his left ankle.
No matter the reasons, that’s an unusually high number of injuries to positions of critical importance this season.
“You can’t control injuries,” Richt said, “and I don’t really try to assess it other than who’s left and what they can do and what gives us our best chance of winning. That’s what I try to focus on from a pure football and strategy point-of-view. The personal part of it is that you feel for your players.”
Slowly the Bulldogs are starting to get some players back in the fold. Rumph is practicing this week without limitations for the first time since August. Gurley is starting to run on the practice field, but has yet to take a snap with the offense. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is trying to ease Matthews back into the fold. Bennett has targeted the Florida game Nov. 2 for his possible return.
“We have a little bit more than usual,” Richt said. “But I think we’re doing the right thing when it comes to strength and conditioning and flexibility.”
RUMPH’S RETURN: Richt and quarterback Aaron Murray have been pleased with what they’ve seen from Rumph in practice this week. They hope the 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior-college transfer can bolster a corps of wide receiver depleted by injuries.
“He’s a big receiver, big kid, can go over the middle, can go up and get balls,” Murray said. “He’s another guy in the rotation as well, so he can help keep the guys fresh so they can go full speed all the time.”
Rumph thrilled Georgia fans with a pair of touchdown catches in the G-Day game in April. But he has yet to get in a game this season because of his strained hamstring.
“By the end of the week we’ll see how comfortable he is and how comfortable we are with what he knows and if we think he can execute,” Richt said. “… (It’s) great that he’s been here all this time, but he doesn’t have a lot of reps early in his career. As a junior college guy, he’s still young with us, so we’re just not sure how many plays he’ll play, but we want to get him going, that’s for sure. We need him to come through.”
LYNCH’S LEAP: Lost in Georgia’s loss to Missouri on Saturday was a rather spectacular play by tight end Arthur Lynch. The senior from Dartmouth, Mass., pulled off his best Knowshon Moreno move and leaped over a Missouri defender in full stride late in the second quarter. Lynch kept his feet for a few yards before being pulled down by a safety for a 15-yard gain.
“It would’ve been a lot better if I could’ve printed out the picture and said we won the game,” said Lynch, who also happened to be named a semifinalist for the Mackey Award this week. “So I’ll have to keep that one stored away until one day my kids don’t believe me, and I can show them I could do that.”
Lynch said it’s actually something he has always wanted to do for his two older sisters. Elizabeth and Frances Fontaine ran hurdles in college at Dartmouth and the other at Boston College. Lynch also ran the hurdles in high school. “They were a lot better than I am,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do it for them.”
ETC.: Whether Collin Barber or Adam Erickson will punt Saturday will be determined in competition this week, possibly up until game time, Richt said. … Richt confirmed that junior safety Shaquille Fluker, out since the first week with an undisclosed “illness,” will redshirt this season.