Stinchcomb out too

He will join Smith and Gibson as top offensive players who will miss Saturday's game at Kentucky.

ATHENS, Ga. - Offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb will have surgery today to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, and he will join tailback Musa Smith and receiver Fred Gibson as top offensive players who will miss Saturday's game at Kentucky.

Like a three-for-one special, the injured players are scheduled for surgeries today at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens.

Smith will have his broken left thumb repaired at noon, followed by Gibson, who has torn ligaments in his left thumb, at 1:30 p.m., and finally Stinchcomb, who has torn meniscus cartilage, at 2:30 p.m.

Smith is Georgia's leading rusher, Gibson is the team's second-leading receiver and top kickoff return specialist, and Stinchcomb is the top all-star candidate on the offensive line.

Each of the three on Monday targeted the Nov. 2 game against Florida as a return date, though Smith is even hoping for a faster recovery.

"I'm going to try to get them to let me play this Saturday, but they might hold me out,'' Smith said. "If they can cast it up, if my thumb doesn't move, it doesn't hurt.''

In fact, Smith said he played with the injury for about half of the 48-17 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday. The injury - a break on his thumb near the wrist - occurred in the first quarter.

"I don't even know how; I guess I jammed it real bad,'' Smith said, adding that he normally carries the ball with his right hand but did manage to switch the ball to his left hand after the injury.

Despite Smith's optimism, it is very unlikely he will be cleared this week, leaving redshirt freshman Tony Milton to make his first start and receive valuable practice time this week with the first-team offense.

"It will help me a lot to get a feel of the first-team line,'' Milton said. "Maybe if I can run behind them, maybe everybody can see what I can do. Maybe I can see what I can do.''

Milton has 28 carries for 118 yards while playing behind Smith, who leads the team with 626 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Plans for Stinchcomb's surgery were made Monday after the tear in the meniscus cartilage was confirmed.

Stinchcomb said defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan suffered a similar injury last year and was back after missing only one game.

"I should be able to get back for Florida,'' Stinchcomb said.

Georgia still has two experienced senior offensive tackles with Kareem Marshall and George Foster, though Foster is playing with a cast on his surgically repaired right wrist. Redshirt freshman Dennis Roland and true freshman Max Jean-Gilles will be the top backups for Foster and Marshall.

Gibson suffered his injury while blocking downfield on a running play. His thumb was caught and forced to bend back after it was caught in the ear hole of a player's helmet.

Because ligaments may take longer to heal, Gibson may have the most difficulty returning for the Florida game.

"It's going to take more than a couple weeks to get healed, but I can't miss the Florida game,'' Gibson said. "It all depends on how I feel.''

Georgia has good experience at receiver with Terrence Edwards, Damien Gary, Reggie Brown and Michael Johnson. Still, Gibson will be missed.

"You are giving up a guy who has been our deep threat,'' said receivers coach John Eason. "It's a blow to the offense.''

Word of the Georgia injuries had reached the Kentucky team Monday.

"One thing that helps good teams like Georgia put up the record and the season they are having is depth,'' said Kentucky linebacker Ronnie Riley. "I think their second-string guys are as good as their first-string guys. They just haven't had a chance to showcase it as much.''

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