Head coach Mark Richt confirmed that starting left tackle Vince Vance will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in the Bulldogs’ 26-14 win over Tennessee on Saturday, further shaking up an already diminished offensive line. Tight end Bruce Figgins, however, has decided to play out the season despite a shoulder injury that will eventually require surgery.
Figgins’ decision gives the Bulldogs some unexpected depth at tight end that will allow coaches to move Kiante Tripp back to the offensive line after three weeks at tight end.
“We might be back to three tight ends,” Richt said, “and Kiante’s just going to be more valuable to the team at tackle right now.”
Tripp switched from left tackle to tight end three weeks ago after Figgins’ injury was first diagnosed. The problems at tight end grew after the Alabama game when starter Tripp Chandler suffered a shoulder injury, too. Richt said Chandler could be back in two weeks when Georgia takes on LSU, however, and redshirt freshman Aron White played well in his first start Saturday.
“Aron did very well,” Richt said. “It wasn’t like he was a dominating, knock-‘em-down, roll-them-off-the-ball kind of guy, but he did a nice job of knowing what to do and fighting. … There were a couple times he got overwhelmed a little bit, but for the most part I thought he did good. Our coaches were pleased.”
Tripp started three games at left tackle after last year’s starter, Trinton Sturdivant, suffered a season-ending knee injury in fall camp.
Vance replaced Tripp as the starter against Arizona State after beginning the year at left guard, and Richt said Clint Boling will likely get the starting nod this week against Vanderbilt.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do if we get any more injuries, but we’re just not catching a break with anybody,” Boling said.
Vance will require reconstructive surgery on a torn right ACL. Richt said Vance’s MCL was also damaged but said trainers thought that injury could be rehabbed without surgery.
Figgins, too, will have surgery on his shoulder, but his performance – and more importantly, his health – Saturday convinced him to delay the surgery until after the season.
“This performance (Saturday) gave me a lot of confidence,” Figgins said. “It put my mind at ease about how I could perform and feel for the rest of the season.”
Figgins met with doctors Sunday and informed tight ends coach John Lilly that he wanted to continue to play. Had Figgins decided to undergo the surgery sooner, he would have been eligible for a medical redshirt – giving him another year of eligibility at Georgia.
Figgins split time with White against Tennessee and said he felt no discomfort and was able to play at a high enough level to convince him to move forward.
Still, the tight ends didn’t figure into Georgia’s offense Saturday. Neither Figgins nor White was targeted on passes against the Volunteers, but Richt said that could change in the future.
“Now that Bruce made it through this game and feels good, and Aron has more confidence, they might get back involved a little bit more,” Richt said. “There were just so many question marks, it wasn’t a position we wanted to build a big game plan around.”
The game plan on the offensive line figures to look much the way it did after Vance’s injury against Tennessee.
Richt said Boling will most likely remain at left tackle, with Justin Anderson at right tackle and Ben Jones at center. Freshman Cordy Glenn, who started the first three games of the season at right guard, and Chris Davis will likely fill the guard spots, but Richt said it had not been decided on which side each would play.
“I’m not exactly sure that’s how it’s going to line up, but we’ve just got less guys that are ready to play for us right now,” Richt said.