Three players went down with serious injuries on Saturday in Georgia’s 34-31 overtime win in Knoxville over the Tennessee Volunteers.
Sophomore running back Keith Marshall went down early in the first quarter after he was hit low. Marshall, who has rushed for 246 yards this season, did not return after he was helped off the field.
Junior wide receiver Michael Bennett injured his knee in the third quarter while pushing a pile. The non-contact injury happened to be to his right knee, the same knee where he suffered a torn ACL last season.
Late in the third quarter, another piece of Georgia’s offensive puzzle was lost. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley left the game with a knee injury. Scott-Wesley’s injury came while covering a punt, similar to Bennett; it was also a non-contact injury.
So, what do these injuries mean for Georgia’s offense and its Southeastern Conference title hopes?
On the ground, the impact of Marshall’s injury will be felt, but how long it’s truly devastating depends on how long sophomore running back Todd Gurley takes to recover from an ankle injury of his own. Even though Gurley is the starter, Marshall isn’t your average backup running back. He ended the 2012 season with 759 yards on 117 carries and eight touchdowns. Marshall also led the SEC in runs of 50 or more yards as a freshman. Marshall is a versatile running back that can be trusted in a variety of situations.
With Gurley listed as doubtful to play against Missouri this week, freshman running back J.J. Green will step up and look to fill in. Green has rushed for 194 yards this season. Against Tennessee, Green went for 129 yards on just 17 carries. Freshman running back Brendan Douglas will also look to help the Bulldogs carry the load on the ground.
Injuries to the wide receiver position will be tougher to manage.
Bennett suffered a season-ending injury last season and was quarterback Aaron Murray’s go-to receiver before his injury. This season Scott-Wesley has been one of Murray’s go-to guys after losing Malcolm Mitchell early in the season. Scott-Wesley caught 16 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns before his knee injury ended his season in Knoxville.
Junior wide receiver Chris Conley has had a pretty good season so far, catching 20 passes for 318 yards. He caught five passes for 64 yards and one touchdown on Saturday against the Volunteers. Conley has earned Murray’s trust over the course of two seasons and leads the team with 20 receptions.
This is a fine time for fifth-year senior Rantavious Wooten to step into a veteran role. Wooten has to make plays like he did on Saturday— catching a 2-yard pass from Murray to send the game into overtime—and post more games where career high is mentioned. Wooten has a slim 42 catches and eight touchdowns in his time at Georgia. If he can step into a larger role, he can become the veteran and lead a depleted corps.
Junior-college transfer Jonathon Rumph could become a huge asset if he could get rid of the hamstring issue that’s been nagging him. He made a huge impact at the G-Day game tallying 98 yards. He has the potential to become a major weapon in this Georgia offense. Senior tight end Arthur Lynch and freshman wide receiver Reggie Davis will also be looked to step up.
All hope is not lost for the Bulldogs, as they still have reliable targets left to turn to. Georgia is proving how important it is to have depth. Georgia got out of Rocky Top with a win, and even though it was won in a way no one expected, it doesn’t matter. Georgia still reigns supreme in the SEC East and after leaving Knoxville victorious, the Bulldogs remain favorites to make a return trip to Atlanta.