'We’ve obviously been missing him:' The latest on UGA star Jalen Carter ahead of Florida

Marc Weiszer
Athens Banner-Herald
Oct 30, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) runs out of the pocket with Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter in pursuit during the first half at TIAA Bank Field. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia will go up against a quarterback Saturday who is the biggest run threat at the position it has faced so far this season in Anthony Richardson.

It could do so again without disruptive defensive tackle Jalen Carter who did not practice during the bye week. Coach Kirby Smart on Monday used the term “hopeful,” which he often does about players sidelined by injury and said about his availability “we still don’t know.”

Carter has missed the last two games due to a sprained MCL after taking a low hit to a knee at Missouri.

“The degree of that, the severity of that just depends on the conditioning level, how fast he can get back,” Smart said. “He’s working to get back.”

Richardson averages 56.7 rushing yards per game and has run for six touchdowns this season. Georgia held Oregon’s Bo Nix to 37 rushing yards in a week one rout.

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The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Carter has seen action in just two SEC games, logging 11 defensive snaps against South Carolina and six against Missouri, according to Pro Football Focus.

The junior from Apopka, Fla., a top 10 projected NFL draft pick, sat out against Auburn and Vanderbilt before the Bulldogs bye week.

Carter ranked third in the team in tackles for loss last season at 8.5 per game as a backup and was second in quarterback pressures with 33 behind NFL No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker.

“We’ve obviously been missing him,” safety Chris Smith said. “He’s a big key to our defense. We’ve got guys behind him, a lot of young guys that have been able to step up this year and get a lot of experience. Hopefully we can get Jalen Carter back very soon.”

Carter has 5 tackles in 5 games played. He doesn’t have a tackle for loss this season and the Bulldogs are 116th nationally in that category with 4.4 per game.

“What do we miss about him?” Smart said. “He’s a really good football player. Y’all have seen the plays he’s made over his time here. He’s not been healthy since the very first game of the season against Oregon.”

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That’s when Carter sustained an ankle injury. He played through it, seeing limited snaps in the first five games before the knee injury.

“He’s a phenomenal player,” Smart said. “You can look at the history there and see. How does it affect you? It affects your depth more than anything. It’s not like he’s a one-trick pony. He can really pass rush good. He can really play the run. He’s disruptive. …It affects everything.”

Top-ranked Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC) faces rival Florida (4-3, 1-3) Saturday in Jacksonville at 3:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs are a 22 ½ point favorite, according to Tipico Sports Book. That’s the largest Georgia has ever been favored in the series, topping the 21 points in 1971, according to UGA football historian and author Patrick Garbin.

The Bulldogs’ defense remains among the nation’s best. It is second in points allowed (9.1), fourth on total defense (247.1 yards per game), fourth in run defense (83.4) and fifth in pass defense (163.7).

Florida’s Richardson has four rushes for more than 30 or more yards this season.

“Some of the runs he’s had are better than backs have had across the country,” Smart said.

Inside linebacker Smael Mondon—who had missed the last two games with an ankle injury--returned to practice last week.

Wide receiver AD Mitchell also falls into the “hopeful” category after not practicing last week.

Smart revealed Monday that Mitchell’s injury was a high ankle sprain.

“It is lingering,” Smart said. “It’s a pain in the butt. He’s battling to come back and doing everything we ask.”

Mitchell has 5 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown this season. He was injured in week 2 against Samford and returned to play limited snaps against Auburn but then sat out the Vanderbilt game.

“I think AD is a dynamic receiver,” Smart said. “He’s hard to cover one-on-one.”

Running back Kendall Milton practiced in a non-contact capacity last Thursday after being sidelined by a groin injury sustained against Auburn.

“We’re expecting him to be able to go to today,” Smart said before Monday’s practice.