It isn’t the worst-case possibility but it is what Georgia feared.
The Bulldogs will be without running back Nick Chubb for the remainder of the season after he sustained what the program called a “significant” knee injury in Saturday’s 38-31 loss to Tennessee.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Chubb bounced a quick toss to his left and was tackled by Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley out of bounds. His left leg bent awkwardly, which caused Chubb to lie on the turf and writhe in pain. He was treated on the field and eventually carted off the sideline to the locker room.
Georgia announced early Sunday evening that Chubb tore multiple ligaments in his knee, although his anterior cruciate ligament remained intact.
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Chubb’s mother wrote on her Facebook account early Sunday afternoon that the Cedartown native tore his posterior cruciate ligament and two others – which would presumably be the medial collateral ligament and the lateral collateral ligament. In addition, Chubb sustained damage to the cartilage in his knee.
No nerves or arteries were affected due to the injury. Chubb is expected to have surgery in the next two weeks.
Chubb’s recovery timetable is not immediately known. Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson said, in a statement released by the team, that Chubb can expect a full recovery following surgery and rehab.
“All rehab is tough,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “But I think the best news was there was no damage of a nerve or nothing vascular, whether it’s an artery or whatever it may be. Of course, the ACL not being damaged was great as well. Just like the note from Ron said, we think the damage is all repairable and that he can make a full recovery. It’s just going to be a matter of how much time and I’m not quite sure of the timetable on that.”
In the meantime, Chubb is staying in a hospital for observation.
Without Chubb in the lineup for the remainder of the season, Sony Michel will assume lead running back duties for the Bulldogs. Michel ran the ball 22 times for 145 yards in Chubb’s absence on Saturday.
After Saturday’s game, Michel said he was ready to take control of being Georgia’s No. 1 running back.
“I was prepared for this moment – (Chubb) prepared me for this moment,” Michel said.
While Michel will be the feature back, Richt said Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas will likely factor more into the mix moving forward.
“We definitely need more than one back to run the ball in a ballgame,” Richt said. “I’m sure Keith will get more opportunities and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brendan Douglas get more opportunities in there as well. We got to keep a close eye on our lead back, in this case it’s now Sony. We’ll try to keep him as fresh as possible throughout a ballgame. We’ll try to have a rotation.”
Since the injury, Chubb has received an outpouring of support on Twitter – ranging from former Georgia running backs Todd Gurley and Herschel Walker to musicians Charlie Daniels and Luke Bryan.
While Richt didn’t want to speculate on an actual timetable for Chubb’s recovery, he’s hoping the star running back will be able to return in time for the 2016 preseason.
“I don’t want to make any time frames on that kind of thing because I really don’t know,” Richt said. “That would be what we hope though.”