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Photo by Mark Cornelison / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart wonders why so many players are opting out for the NFL when there is no certainty of the draft combine and various pro days.

The upcoming portion of Georgia's football schedule is far more opt-out row than murderers' row.

Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are the next three tests for the No. 13 Bulldogs, and all three of those programs have been ravaged by players choosing to punt the remainder of this coronavirus-altered season. Gamecocks cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu announced their decisions to opt out Tuesday, with Mukuamu having intercepted three Jake Fromm passes in South Carolina's 20-17 double-overtime upset of Georgia last season in Sanford Stadium.

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart questioned some of these moves following Tuesday's practice.

"I think it will be measured when they get to the next level," Smart said. "Some pundit or critic would say, 'That's easy for you to say. They need to worry about their NFL careers,' but I've learned that those NFL careers are not for long, especially for guys who aren't first-rounders.

"If you've got a bona fide first-rounder, that's a completely different subject, but that's not the case in a lot of these opt-outs."

Mississippi State visits Athens this Saturday night but will be without running back Kylin Hill. After rushing for 1,350 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns last season, Hill played in just three games this year before choosing to opt out earlier this month.

Georgia's two starting tackles last season, Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, chose to sit out the 26-14 Sugar Bowl dumping of Baylor, while this year's projected starting quarterback, Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman, opted out in early September. No Bulldogs players have departed since, and Smart expects it to stay that way.

"Our kids care about each other, and they want to win," he said. "They want to have a productive season. At the end of the day, they want to improve their draft stock. How does it really look to opt out to train and not play? All of the general managers we talk to are going to talk about that.

"What are they working out for? We don't know if there is going to be a combine or a pro day. What we know is that we play Mississippi State on Saturday, and that's a showcase to go do what you can do."

Smart continues to reveal very little when it comes to Georgia's starting quarterback this week, adding that Stetson Bennett IV was "able to go out and do some things" in Tuesday's practice. Smart said that Bennett, D'Wan Mathis, JT Daniels and Carson Beck are each getting work leading up to Saturday night's contest.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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