As the Georgia Bulldogs prepare to take on rival Auburn this week, head coach Kirby Smart issued an update on his star receiver, Ladd McConkey. McConkey has not played in 2023 due to a back injury.
As the potential 2024 NFL Draft prospect works to get back on the field, we have the latest on McConkey’s injury status and what to expect from the playmaker.
Ladd McConkey Injury Update
You could say McConkey enjoys facing off against Auburn. From a statistical standpoint, his best-ever game came during the 2021 season.
McConkey caught five passes for 135 yards and got into the end zone for a touchdown … all in front of the Auburn faithful, earning a dominant win for Georgia.
Being without McConkey as Georgia’s competition ramps up could be critical as the team looks to win its third straight national title. Smart had this to say about McConkey’s status during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference call:
“He looks really good. It’s walk before you run, run before you sprint, and then spring and get contact. So, we’re kind of in stages of that. It’s one of those things that we don’t know what’s going to frustrate him or bother him. And he has to trust it. He’s doing exactly what the doctors have told him and the experts told him. So, he’s coming back.”
Smart feels like McConkey can get onto the field and make his 2023 season debut. It would be a major boost for the Georgia offense — not that they were struggling against weaker foes.
However, just because McConkey can get back onto the field does not mean he will be full-go from the beginning. Smart says he must ramp up and get back into full-game shape, especially with the heat expected on the Plains come Saturday afternoon.
“Getting faster each day in terms of ramping up and then conditioning is a factor as well,” Smart said. “It’s expected to be hot, and he hasn’t played this season. So, there may be a role for him in what he does.”
Last season, McConkey had five receptions for 47 yards. He tends to perform well during the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry game. For McConkey to make a similar impact, there are a few things that need to happen.
First, he needs to play and overcome the issues presented by Smart. Fortunately, the update provided on Wednesday was positive. McConkey may have a limited role, but Georgia will be pleased to have a dependable receiver back on the field, regardless of the opponent.
There’s certainly a trickle-down effect a back injury can have on McConkey as a prospect, though. The 6’0 “, 185-pounder is as reliable as receivers come, providing the offense with a consistent possession threat who has more explosiveness than what meets the eye test.
He’s a viable mid-round target in the 2024 NFL Draft.
However, a back injury can derail everything quickly. Every season, some prospects go from projected top-100 picks to undrafted free agents. And oftentimes, it has to do with medical evaluations.
MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board
Teams don’t like unnecessary risks when it comes to health. Trust me, as an old guy myself, backs rarely become drastically better over time.
McConkey is only a junior, but this injury could be enough to send him back to school for the 2024 season if he can’t return soon and produce like we’ve come to expect of him.
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