Dogs look to depth with WR Bennett out for season

The Georgia football team was forced to move on Wednesday after losing leading receiver Michael Bennett to a season-ending knee injury.

The redshirt sophomore from Alpharetta tore the ACL in his right knee at the end of practice on Tuesday.

“It’s very sad that it happened,” coach Mark Richt said Wednesday. “It happened on the very last play of practice yesterday. It was a heck of a practice, really. Everybody was working hard. Everybody had a good attitude, scout-teamers were getting after it, giving us a good look, everything you’d hope for a Tuesday practice we were having.”

Bennett leads No. 5 Georgia in receptions (24), receiving yards (345) and touchdown catches (four), but the Bulldogs are deep at receiver.

“I think we’re still going to be fine, but we’re losing a guy that I personally think helped the toughness of our unit the way he went about his business, even when he was redshirted,” Richt said. “Just a tough, hard-nosed football player, a guy who was going to make a tough catch, a guy that was going to block, a guy who was going to practice with a lot of intensity.”

Quarterback Hutson Mason said the injury “drowned some spirits. A little buzzkill. Everybody knows how good of a year he was having and it being the last play of practice it was like, ‘Dang, man.’”

Richt said Bennett was engaged in a block — “just working it” — when he was injured.

“No one ran into him, no one rolled into him or anything like that, his knee buckled,” Richt said. “There it was.”

Bennett got up after being down for a short time and walked it off, Richt said.

The team gave him a round of applause, thinking he might be OK. Receiver Marlon Brown got a call later that night telling him the severity of the injury.

Bennett will undergo reconstructive surgery soon, and Richt said he could be full speed by the start of next season.

“God has a plan for me and everything happens for a reason,” Bennett tweeted Wednesday. “Get ready for a historic season Dawg nation. Our boys are gonna get it done!”

The loss of Bennett is a blow to a Georgia offense that leads the Southeastern Conference in total offense at 536 yards per game but is cushioned some now that sophomore Malcolm Mitchell is returning to offense after starting at cornerback early this season.

“He’s had more reps offensively throughout his career, and now, especially with Bennett’s injury, we’re going to be using him more offensively,” Richt said.

Mitchell led Georgia in receiving yards per game last season. He has six catches for 74 yards this season in limited offensive work.

Georgia still also has Brown, Tavarres King, Rantavious Wooten, Chris Conley and Rhett McGowan that coaches see as game-ready.

“I feel like the guys know that we’re able to make a lot of plays in different ways,” Conley said. “We’re focusing on what we can do to defeat South Carolina. We feel like we can attack them in the passing game.”

“The guys we have now, we’ll be fine,” Brown said. “We’ll just keep on rolling.”

Richt said that redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley is “right on the cusp,” of cracking into the receiver rotation but that freshman Blake Tibbs still is headed for a redshirt season.

With tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome also involved in the passing game, Richt said “we think we’ll have enough people to make plays for us.”

“It gives us another thing to play for,” linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We’re playing for Mike.”

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