- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Yet another left thumb injury will cost a Georgia outside linebacker some practice time.
For the third time in two days, UGA announced on Tuesday that an outside linebacker -- this time freshman Leonard Floyd -- underwent surgery to repair an injured thumb. Floyd fractured the thumb in Monday’s practice, but should return to practice in a cast shortly.
“We’re hoping that everybody [returns] early next week,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Georgia announced on Monday that sophomore James DeLoach -- the projected starting strongside linebacker -- and freshman Davin Bellamy both underwent thumb surgery that day. As with Floyd, both players should return to practice within a few days and work for an undetermined length of time with a cast covering their surgically-repaired hands, but be back in time for the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson.
Richt was unaware that all three linebackers had injured their left thumbs -- a seemingly freak occurrence for so many players at the same position in such a short period of time.
“But it is hand-to-hand combat,” Richt told a reporter after Tuesday’s evening practice. “You can strengthen just about everything in the world -- you can strengthen your grip a little bit, but I don’t know if you can strengthen your hand for if your thumb gets bent back or your hand gets cracked.”
Floyd, who signed with Georgia in 2012 and spent last season at Hargrave Military after failing to qualify, has been one of the freshman standouts so far in the Bulldogs’ preseason camp. The pass-rush specialist earned praise from coaches and teammates almost immediately once camp started, with Richt remarking that “you see big upside” from the freshman in his first post-practice comments of the preseason.
“He’s a really good player,” Richt said Tuesday.
Strongside linebacker Chase Vasser also missed Tuesday’s practice with a sprained left ankle, making the fifth-year senior one of a whopping 17 Georgia players listed on the day’s injury report.
Versatile sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons practiced with Georgia’s outside linebackers during the portion of Tuesday afternoon’s practice that was open to the media -- a move that Richt described as “a quick fix” because of the numerous injuries at strongside linebacker. Although Harvey-Clemons is expected to predominantly play safety and nickelback, Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has insisted for months that Harvey-Clemons -- who is suspended for the Clemson game for violating team rules -- will also see some time at outside linebacker.
“Part of it is just the sam linebacker position is depleted enough where we’ve had to figure out how we were going to line up, and that was part of it,” Richt said of Harvey-Clemons’ move. “The reason why he’s a natural for that position is that the nickel position or the star position they are very much alike in assignment.”