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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Trickle Down Effect

When we look back on this season in February or March, one word will probably spring to mind before any others: Injuries.

Georgia has been decimated by injuries this season, with 18 players currently out with bumps, breaks and bruises of the season-ending variety.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this year has been the way that reserves have stepped into more significant roles following injuries to the starters and still flourished. Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn, Shaun Chapas, Corvey Irvin and Darryl Gamble are probably the best examples, but others have contributed as well.

While most of the attention has been focused on the starters who missed time this year, however, the effects of the injuries go well beyond the starting lineup.


There were days in August where there were as many green jerseys as there were red and white ones. The linebacking corps and defensive ends were hurt the most, and during one period of camp, there weren't enough healthy DEs to practice. Defensive tackles like Irvin and Brandon Wood were forced to play the ends just so the Bulldogs could run drills.

The same was true at multiple other positions, and while many of those camp injuries didn't end up costing players any games, the lack of practice reps carried over into the season.

"It's hard to get good at blocking and tackling if you don't block and tackle," head coach Mark Richt said. "It's hard to get good at cut blocks if you're not cut blocking. It's hard to get good at defending a cut block if you're not having it come at you. It's hard to teach wrapping up, running your feet and getting a guy to the ground if you don't get to live it out on a consistent enough basis, and it probably did have a little something to do with how things went."


Some players have been able to play Saturdays, but their work during the week has been hampered by injuries. Players like Jeremy Lomax and Kade Weston have battled the same injuries since the fall, and their work in the weight room and on the practice field has been limited.

"A lot of times these injuries, you might be healthy enough to practice or play, but you miss all that time in the weight room, you miss all those fundamentals, it's hard to roll back in there and play great," head coach Mark Richt said.

More over, when key players are limited or out of practice, that means more reps and, possibly, more injuries for the players who are taking their place.


A number of Georgia's walking wounded weren't pegged to play a key role this year, but their loss is still felt during practice.

"The better look you get (from the scout team), the better chance you have of playing fast and playing well," Richt said.

Georgia's scout team has ended up sending a number of players to the two deep due to injuries to starters, while other key freshmen such as Makiri Pugh and Christian Robinson have been hurt and unable to assist in practice drills.

While those players may not have appeared in the game, it's hard to quantify what kind of affect their loss had on reducing the quality of practice for the players who are on the field on Saturdays.


This is perhaps the area that suffers the most from injuries. When a key special teamer like Justin Fields or Darius Dewberry goes down with an injury, the effect is immediately felt. But when starters on offense and defense get hurt, their replacement often comes from special teams, too, creating yet another hole.

"It's a chain reaction. Every time anyone is injured or suspended or someone flunks out or is kicked off the team, the first thing that's affected are the kicking teams," assistant coach Jon Fabris said. "A guy that played every game, every rep on the kickoff team the year before, a guy with all that experience, you're ready to reap the rewards of experience – sorry, Shaun Chapas is not available for you. Chain reaction, and it trickles down that way. And it happens not only in the summer time, but every time a guy gets hurt, you're just constantly being wilted away."


And then, of course, there are the big names. Georgia has lost plenty of them this season. Jeff Owens, Trinton Sturdivant, Tripp Chandler, Brannan Southerland, Dannell Ellerbe, Vince Vance, Justin Anderson, Bruce Figgins, Kris Durham, Kenneth Harris and Rod Battle were all considered full- or part-time starters but have missed a combined 42 games.

While many reserves have stepped into those roles admirably, it has also had a ripple effect on the other players around them. Yes, Ben Jones has played well, but his shift into the starting lineup required yet another shift among the linemen. The defensive ends have never had a chance to build any cohesion, the linebacking corps has been shaken up several times, and the starting group of wide receivers has had to shift throughout the season, too. Players are forced to adjust and re-adjust, and a comfort level has been hard to find.

"What are we, 9-2? That's a great accomplishment with eight or nine guys injured," Owens said. "That's almost a starting defense. We've done a tremendous job. I think we'd have been 12-0, but who knows what could have happened? That's life. That's football. Injuries are going to come."

"A lot of people have had to grow up this year," Durham said. "They've had to step up their game because they've had to be thrown in there. They might not have been expecting to play, but then you turn around and get thrown in there. Coaches have done a great job of preparing everybody to play as soon as their time is called."

Still not convinced that Georgia's season never really stood a chance against the dreaded injury bug? Perhaps the sheer numbers will be enough to grab your attention.

(NOTE: This list only includes players who have missed games due to injuries or suspensions or true freshmen who redshirted in part because of injuries.)

Justin Anderson (RFr, OL)
INJURY: Foot (plantar fasciitis)
EXPECTED ROLE: Was starting right tackle beginning in Week 4.
GAMES MISSED: Second half of Kentucky, has not returned.

Donavon Baldwin (Jr, FS)
INJURY: Suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve saftey, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Suspended during fall camp, never played.

Neland Ball (RFr, DE)
INJURY: Hamstring
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve defensive end, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Injuries held him back early, keeping him out of the Georgia Southern game, and he has never played a significant role.

Quintin Banks (RSo., SS)
EXPECTED ROLE: No. 3 in safety rotation, special teams
GAMES MISSED: All but Tennessee. Banks injured the knee in fall camp, missed six weeks, then suffered a setback one game after returning.

Rod Battle (Jr., DE)
INJURY: Neck, elbow
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting defensive end
GAMES MISSED: Missed games vs. South Carolina, Arizona State and Alabama and played sparingly against Tennessee and Vanderbilt with a neck sprain. In a green jersey again this week with a hyperextended elbow.

Clint Boling (So., OL)
INJURY: Suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting lineman
GAMES MISSED: Georgia Southern

Tripp Chandler (Sr., TE)
INJURY: Shoulder, knee
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting tight end
GAMES MISSED: Left Alabama game early, missed Tennessee, Vanderbilt and LSU, missed extended time against Auburn.

Sanders Commings (Fr., DB)
INJURY: Shoulder
EXPECTED ROLE: Possible nickel back and special teamer
GAMES MISSED: Applied for medical redshirt, has not played.

Darius Dewberry (Jr., LB)
INJURY: Suspension, groin, shoulder
EXPECTED ROLE: Part of two-deep on LB corps, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Missed first two games with suspension, missed significant time in fall camp with groin injury, left Florida game early and is not expected to return.

Kris Durham (Jr., WR)
INJURY: Ankle, shoulder
EXPECTED ROLE: No. 3 wide receiver
GAMES MISSED: Left Alabama game early, missed Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Dannell Ellerbe (Sr., LB)
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting MLB, preseason All-SEC player
GAMES MISSED: Left Alabama game early, missed Tennessee, Vandy and LSU, played sparingly against Florida.

Justin Fields (So., FB)
EXPECTED ROLE: Third-string fullback, key special teams player
GAMES MISSED: Left Kentucky game with season-ending injury.

Bruce Figgins (So., TE)
INJURY: Shoulder, suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: No. 2 tight end, part-time starter
GAMES MISSED: Did not play first game due to disciplinary reasons. Injured shoulder against Arizona State and did not play against Alabama. Has played with shoulder injury that will require surgery at season's end since then.

Kenneth Harris (Sr., WR)
EXPECTED ROLE: Began season as starting wide receiver.
GAMES MISSED: Left Georgia Southern game early and missed next two games.

Akeem Hebron (RSo., LB)

EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve linebacker, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Injured ankle prior to LSU game and will miss the rest of the season.

Jeff Henson (Sr., LSn)

INJURY: Suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting long snapper
GAMES MISSED: Suspended prior to season and dismissed from program.

Walter Hill (RFr., WR)
INJURY: Wrist, knee
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve wide receiver, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Suffered broken wrist in fall camp, a knee injury later and decided to leave the program without ever playing a game.

Tavarres King (Fr., WR)
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve wide receiver, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Suffered ankle sprain in fall camp, played early but re-aggrevated the injury against Arizona State and has applied for a medical redshirt.

Michael Lemon (RSo., DE)
INJURY: Suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve defensive end
GAMES MISSED: Was suspended prior to fall camp and dismissed from the program.

Chris Little (RFr., OL)
INJURY: Various
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve offensive lineman
GAMES MISSED: Suffered several injury-related setbacks and decided to leave the program.

Fred Munzenmaier (RSo., FB)

INJURY: Suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve fullback, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Georgia Southern and Central Michigan

Jeff Owens (Sr., DT)
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting defensive tackle, senior leader on defense
GAMES MISSED: Tore his ACL on his ninth snap of the season.

Makiri Pugh (Fr., DB)
EXPECTED ROLE: Possible reserve DB, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Injured ankle in fall camp and fell behind. Ended up redshirting.

Christian Robinson (Fr., LB)

INJURY: Broken arm
EXPECTED ROLE: Linebacker likely to redshirt
GAMES MISSED: Missed entire season.

Brannan Southerland (Sr., FB)
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting fullback
GAMES MISSED: Endured two surgeries on his foot and didn't return to his fullback role until the Tennessee game.

Trinton Sturdivant (So., LT)
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting left tackle
GAMES MISSED: Tore knee ligaments early in fall camp and missed the season.

Vince Vance (Jr., OL)
EXPECTED ROLE: Starting offensive lineman
GAMES MISSED: Tore his ACL in the first half against Tennessee, ending his season.

Marcus Washington (Sr., LB)
INJURY: Shoulder
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve linebacker, special teams
GAMES MISSED: Missed entire season.

Kade Weston (Jr., DT)
INJURY: Knee, quad
EXPECTED ROLE: Top reserve defensive tackle
GAMES MISSED: Missed Georgia Southern and Vanderbilt and has been hobbled throughout the other games after undergoing knee surgery days before Georgia's first game.

Charles White (RFr., LB)
INJURY: Achilles
EXPECTED ROLE: Key special teams player, reserve linebacker
GAMES MISSED: Tore Achilles during fall camp and missed the season.

Tony Wilson (RSo., WR)
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve wide receiver and key special teamer
GAMES MISSED: Suffered ankle injury in the spring that never fully healed. Underwent surgery after the Alabama game, ending his season.

Brandon Wood (RSo., DT)

INJURY: Suspension
EXPECTED ROLE: Reserve defensive tackle.
GAMES MISSED: Missed the LSU and Florida games after being charged with DUI.

Rough list of other players to have missed time during camp or lost significant practice reps later in the season due to injuries that have not cost them playing time: Kalvin Daniels, Demarcus Dobbs, Chris Davis, Jeremy Lomax, Mo Massaquoi, Knowshon Moreno, Israel Troupe, Aron White, Jarius Wynn and Jeremy Longo.

If I'm missing anyone, feel free to let me know, and I'll add them to the list.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call Justin Fields a key special teams player. How he was getting to play I'm not sure, but our special teams need speed, not walk ons like Fields and some of these other slow white kids.

Anonymous said...

anon 5:40,
Did he kick your kitten?

Anonymous said...

made out with his girlfriend