Loss of Owens is big, early blow

ATHENS, Ga. --- Marcus Washington knew how Jeff Owens felt when he approached his fellow Georgia senior during the break between the first and second quarters of Saturday's 45-21 win over Georgia Southern.

Washington, a former Burke County star, knows the emotions that surface when your senior season is cut short by injury, having struggled through that disappointment himself when he learned he'd miss the year with a shoulder injury.

When Owens was lying on the sideline trainer's table between quarters -- his hands covering his face and his right leg in a soft cast after he sustained a knee injury on Georgia's eighth defensive play of the game -- Washington approached to offer words of encouragement.

"I told him, 'It's a tough situation. Make sure you've got your head on right. Make sure you don't get down on yourself or down on the situation. You've gotta stay up. It's gonna get better.' "

But it's apparent that Owens' immediate future is in doubt.

Georgia coach Mark Richt wouldn't speculate on the severity of the injury until Owens undergoes an MRI, but he made it clear the preseason All-SEC selection will not return in the near future -- if at all this season.

"I don't think he'll be playing anytime soon," Richt said.

Owens' injury, combined with injured Kade Weston's expected absence for at least one more game, leaves the Bulldogs with a void at defensive tackle, a position of strength entering the season.

With Owens and Weston unavailable, defensive line coach Rodney Garner elected to add first-year freshman DeAngelo Tyson to the tackle rotation with veterans Geno Atkins and Corvey Irvin and less experienced Brandon Wood and Ricardo Crawford.

Losing Owens' leadership might be just as damaging as his losing presence on the field.

"Jeff means a lot to this team, not just the defense," Garner said. "I think both sides of the ball would identify him as one of our leaders, one of the rocks, a solid guy for us. We just need some of those guys to step up now."

Reach David Ching at david.ching@onlineathens.com.

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