October 3, 2012

Who steps up at WR now?

Now that leading receiver Michael Bennett is lost for the year after tearing his ACL in practice, who's going to step up to fill the void in Georgia's receiving corps?

According to head coach Mark Richt, the cupboard isn't exactly bare.

"We've got (Malcolm) Mitchell, Marlon (Brown), (Rantavious) Wooten, TK (Tavarres King), Rhett McGowan and Chris Conley, "Richt said after practice Wednesday. "We've got at least six guys who have played and have played in big games, although they'll get more opportunities than they probably would have gotten."

But Bennett will certainly be missed.

Along with topping Georgia's receivers with 24 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns, the redshirt sophomore brought a sense of toughness to the position which Richt said will definitely be missed.

"Even when he was redshirting he was a tough, hard-nosed football player, a guy who was going to make a catch, block, a guy who was going to practice with a lot of intensity," Richt said. "Not that he was the only guy doing it but I think when you get enough guys doing it like that it becomes a part of the culture of the position and he was a very big part of that."

Senior Marlon Brown agreed.

"It sucks to see a guy work so hard from January until now to have a freak accident practicing," Brown said. "Everybody is going to pray for Mike, but really we can't slow down. We've got to keep practicing hard and keep our focus on this game on Saturday."

Richt revealed that the injury actually occurred on the final play of Tuesday's drills.

According to Richt, the injury occurred while Bennett was engaged in a blocking drill with cornerback Devin Bowman.

"Devin heard it pop," said backup quarterback Huston Mason, Bennett's roommate.

"He was just blocking there was no contact other than he was engaged in a block," Richt said. "No one rolled up on him or anything like that. ACL injuries are usually non-contact, the thing buckles and it goes the wrong way."

Initially, Bennett got up and was able to walk away before an MRI revealed the extent of the damage.

We didn't even know what happened. It was the last play of practice. I saw him go down, but he got up and started walking and everybody thought he was all right.

He called me last night and told me what happened. It just sucks for him.

"We didn't even know what happened. It was the last play of practice. I saw him go down, but he got up and started walking and everybody thought he was all right," Brown said. "He called me last night and told me what happened. It just sucks for him."

Richt said early prognosis is that Bennett will be ready to go by the start of the 2013 campaign.

"The good news for Michael is he's a sophomore he's got two more years to go. It happened at the time of the year where I think he could be ready for the start of next season," Richt said. "We're about to play a player in Marcus Lattimore that had a similar thing happen to him, and he's recovered beautifully, so that really helps Michael and us we go forward."

Bennett's absence could be softened by the return of Mitchell, who worked primarily with the offense Wednesday, a day which originally had him slated to practice with the rest of the Georgia cornerbacks.

As a freshman, Mitchell finished second on the team with 45 receptions for 665 yards and four touchdowns.

"I wouldn't say he's done playing defense," Richt said of Mitchell. "He's still going to get work as a defensive player and he'll probably get some reps on defense as the season goes on."

Still, for the time being, wide receiver figures to be Mitchell's home

One player who apparently won't be getting an opportunity for playing time is freshman Blake Tibbs. According to Richt, the plan is still for the MLK standout to redshirt.