ATHENS – Injuries have piled up for the Georgia football team, which continued spring practice Thursday with a number of key players sidelined.
Particularly hard hit were the inside-linebacker and safety positions.
At inside linebacker, projected starters Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree missed the practice because of a concussion and a strained groin, respectively, and backup Michael Gilliard was out with a sprained knee.
At safety, Jakar Hamilton was sidelined with a concussion, Marc Deas with a tweaked hamstring and Bacarri Rambo with a previously reported sprained knee ligament.
The rash of injuries left the Bulldogs practicing with only two healthy scholarship inside linebackers, Richard Samuel and Brandon Burrows, and one healthy scholarship safety, Shawn Williams.
Coaches responded by shifting Sanders Commings, who started nine games at cornerback last season, to safety — at least for now and possibly for good. It’s a move that had been contemplated even before the injuries.
“The safety position is pretty low as far as depth,” Deas said Thursday night. “What we pretty much have now are the walk-ons and Shawn. . . . Sanders is new to it, so he’s learning plays and stuff. . . . I think he’s adjusted pretty well.”
On offense, tailback Washaun Ealey remained sidelined with a strained left hamstring. Ealey has missed the past five practices.
Rambo is not expected to return to practice this spring, and it is not clear when the others will be back.
Georgia said Robinson and Hamilton are “day to day” and Ogletree “out indefinitely.” Deas said he hopes to be back at practice by Monday, and UGA said Gilliard is expected back before the April 16 G-Day game, which completes spring practice. Ealey also could be back next week.
Outside linebacker Cornelius Washington chose to focus on the upside of the injury situation.
“It makes us better, I feel like, because it gives you opportunities to put guys in new places and see what they can do,” Washington said. “Whenever you have an injury, another guy steps up and fills in the spot. It makes us communicate better because a new guy might not know this or that, so we’re all talking. That just builds habits. Later on, when the [first-teamers] get back, we should still communicate like that.”
Thursday’s practice was Georgia’s 10th of the allotted 15 this spring. Despite the extensive injuries at linebacker and safety, “the defense won” the practice, coach Mark Richt said in a statement. He didn’t meet with reporters. The Bulldogs won’t practice Friday but will hold a closed scrimmage in Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
– Tim Tucker, AJC