ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey could rest his ailing ankle this week against Georgia Tech. But Georgia coach Kirby Smart said tightrope surgery is not on the table for McConkey, as the SEC championship looms.
Here’s what you need to know:
- McConkey rolled his ankle in the first half of the Nov. 11 win over Ole Miss. He didn’t practice much the next week and tried to play at Tennessee but stopped after six snaps.
- Smart said Monday that he was told there was speculation about McConkey getting surgery: “That’s not the case at all. I don’t know where that’s coming from.”
- Despite missing the first four games with a back injury, McConkey is Georgia’s fourth-leading receiver (26 catches for 418 yards and two touchdowns), and was the team’s second-leading receiver last year, behind only Brock Bowers.
McConkey’s injury and its impact
There have been online reports indicating McConkey’s ankle could be a long-term issue. But the fact McConkey played a week after the injury showed it’s not a high ankle sprain, and Smart said they “feel good” that McConkey will return, without saying if that will be Saturday or later.
“He’s got a tweaked ankle that he tweaked in the game here at home,” Smart said. “He was able to go a little bit some at the end of the week but didn’t practice much. It bothered him a little bit Saturday. But nothing any more severe than that. I mean we’ve done MRIs since the game and even more testing.”
Even if Georgia has to play without McConkey, it’s done that already, as well as without its biggest star. Bowers missed the wins over Florida and Missouri (73 combined points and 871 combined yards). And with McConkey barely playing Saturday, the Bulldogs racked up 38 points and Carson Beck passed for 316 yards.
Georgia has several good receiving options: Dominic Lovett (484 receiving yards), Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (472 yards), Rara Thomas (383 yards) and Dillon Bell emerged with 90 receiving yards at Tennessee.
The question is whether Georgia ultimately needs a healthy McConkey to be at its best and beat Alabama, plus anyone it would meet if it makes the College Football Playoff. The redshirt junior is an elite route runner, with a great ability to separate which has made him a key target on third downs.
That’s why the emphasis could be on McConkey resting this week, hoping the ankle heals to a point he can play against Alabama. And he may not be the only player who sees limited snaps, or none at all, because of nagging injuries.
Georgia Tech (6-5) has had a solid year and comes in having won three of its last four. But the Yellow Jackets have one of the worst defenses in the ACC (last in total yards allowed, second-to-last in yards per play and scoring defense.) Georgia’s offense is one of the best in the country (fifth in yards per play and scoring). So it would make sense if Georgia plays it cautious with offensive injuries while going more all-hands-on-deck with defensive players.
Other Georgia injury updates
Right guard Tate Ratledge could miss this week after leaving the Tennessee game with a leg injury. Ratledge has a bone bruise after banging knees with someone in the first half. The knee was still sore as of Monday, per Smart, but there’s no structural damage.
“It’ll just be a timetable of how quick it is for him to turn around,” Smart said.
Thomas, who left the Tennessee game with a foot injury, did not have any obvious limp or wrapping around his foot after the game.
“We don’t know the severity of it,” Smart said. “We think he’s going to be okay but we don’t know that. We’ll see that during the week and whether he’s ready to go.”
Bowers has played the last two weeks after returning from tightrope surgery on his ankle, playing 56 snaps. He sat out a series early in the second half, but Bowers said afterward he was feeling fine.
“Brock feels good. I think he’s a little sore,” Smart said. “I think what he’s doing is he’s on his ankle more during the game, and obviously, getting live-tackled, and the catches he got so there’s more soreness after the game than there is during the week. So the recovery takes a little longer with that process. We go lighter on him during the week because if you don’t he’ll over-work himself. That’s been the plan each week.”
On the defensive side, inside linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson is expected to miss a third straight game with a forearm injury. There’s been no announced timetable for his return, but freshman CJ Allen has played well in his absence. Smart categorized Dumas-Johnson as “week to week.”
(Photo: Dale Zanine / USA Today)