Since Georgia’s loss to LSU in the SEC Championship Game back on the first Saturday in December and after learning that UGA would be playing in the 2020 Sugar Bowl versus Baylor, there have been rumors, speculation, and much talk of which Bulldogs would be playing in a non-College Football Playoff postseason game.
The first concrete news came from junior starting left tackle Andrew Thomas and redshirt sophomore starting right tackle Isaiah Wilson when both offensive linemen announced on Tuesday, December 17th that they would be forgoing the rest of their collegiate eligibility to enter the NFL Draft and would not be playing in the Sugar Bowl Game. The following day, Dawgs247 Jake Rowe broke a story on offensive guard Ben Cleveland being academically ineligible to play in the New Year’s Day bowl game for the Bulldogs.
Two weeks out from the January 1st bowl date with Baylor in New Orleans, UGA was going to be without three of its five starting offensive linemen. Now add senior safety J.R. Reed to the list of starters out for the Sugar Bowl. He posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts on Saturday afternoon that he would not be able to play due to a foot injury he sustained in practice.
And in addition, there has been still further speculation on which running backs will be suiting up for the Dawgs with junior D’Andre Swift dealing with a shoulder injury, sophomore James Cook dealing with an off-the-field arrest, and senior Brian Herrien reportedly not practicing. During a UGA football Early Signing Day and Sugar Bowl press conference on the afternoon of December 18th, head coach Kirby Smart would not elaborate on the status of Cook, Herrien, and Swift, nor, would he confirm whether or not Cleveland was eligible or ineligible to play in the Sugar Bowl.
“Cannot confirm that, no, because there’s still things out there,” said Kirby. “So nothing’s final yet.”
The team arrived in New Orleans, LA on December 27th and Kirby was again pressed on Friday as to which Bulldogs made the trip and would be playing in the Sugar Bowl. Although he declined to confirm which players did not make the trip and wanted to focus on the players that did, Coach Smart did confirm that sophomore running back James Cook had been cleared to play.
“I will update you on a couple of injuries and other updates. James Cook is cleared to play,” said Kirby. “We don’t discuss details, situations, like this publicly usually. But we thoroughly reviewed this situation. In compliance with our drug policy, we tested him immediately after he had an arrest. The test was negative. And James is cleared to play. It’s that simple. Not proud of his behavior, but he suffered some discipline for what he did, and that’s done. James is cleared to play, and that should be updated.”
Kirby also gave an updated on injured wide receiver Kearis Jackson and running back D’Andre Swift, stating that both Jackson and Swift traveled with the team but were not 100%.
“Kearis Jackson is still recovering from his high ankle sprain from the SEC championship game. He has not been able to completely practice,” said Kirby on Friday. “He’s running a straight line, he’s doing some good things, but he hasn’t been full go. We hope to get him full speed this week.”
Kirby added, “D’Andre Swift has been recovering from a shoulder injury, due to the end of the season. He’s been able to do more and more each practice, the last two doing the most. He’s been doing the most out of the last for a couple of recent practices. We’re hopeful he’s able to go at 100% for the game. He wants to play in the game. If he’s able to go 100%, he’ll be able to play.”
Saturday’s December 28th Sugar Bowl practice was open to the media for approximately 15 minutes and all eyes were on who was there but more importantly, who was not.
In addition to the above mentioned Cleveland, Reed, Thomas, and Wilson, the following UGA student-athletes were not seen during the media viewing period of Saturday’s practice.
Tyler Clark – senior DT
Walter Grant – junior OLB
D’Marcus Hayes – senior OL
Brian Herrien – senior RB
Tyrique McGhee – senior DB
Quay Walker – sophomore LB
Justin Young – senior DE
Here are Bulldogs who are out due to injuries.
Dominick Blaylock – freshman WR – (knee, ACL)
Lawrence Cager – graduate WR – (broken ankle)
D’Wan Mathis – freshman QB – (has not been cleared to play since having emergency brain surgery back in May)
J.R Reed – senior S – (foot)
Justin Shaffer – junior OL – (suffered a season-ending neck injury vs. South Carolina on October 12th)
Divaad Wilson – redshirt freshman DB – (undisclosed injury)
If you are counting that is six Dawgs out with injuries, two sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, one academically ineligible, and seven others not seen during the 15-minute media viewing period of Saturday’s practice. That adds up to potentially 16 scholarship players not being available for UGA versus Baylor in Wednesday’s Sugar Bowl Game. And if Jackson or Swift are too injured to go that number jumps up to 17 or 18.