Georgia’s Smart wary of COVID-19 results before Peach Bowl

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, file photo, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart pauses during timeout against Florida in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Jacksonville, Fla. Kirby Smart says rising COVID-19 numbers have him concerned as the No. 11 Bulldogs prepare for Friday's Peach Bowl game against No. 6 Cincinnati.  (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, file photo, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart pauses during timeout against Florida in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Jacksonville, Fla. Kirby Smart says rising COVID-19 numbers have him concerned as the No. 11 Bulldogs prepare for Friday's Peach Bowl game against No. 6 Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ATLANTA – Rising COVID-19 numbers have Georgia coach Kirby Smart concerned as the No. 11 Bulldogs prepare for Friday’s Peach Bowl game against No. 6 Cincinnati.

Smart said four players, including defensive standouts Eric Stokes and Monty Rice, will miss the game due to opting out for the NFL draft or injury concerns. Meanwhile, the defense could be bolstered if safety Richard LeCounte and tackle Jordan Davis return from injuries.

It’s the unknown — who might test positive or be ruled out due to contact tracing — that causes Smart anguish.

“Thrill a minute,” Smart said dryly on Monday when asked about his team’s status with COVID-19 testing results.

“We’ve had good information, bad information, information that changed,” he said. “It’s been a struggle. I can say that. That’s really all I can say about it. I’m not going to get into details. We’ve had our issues.”

Georgia avoided serious problems with players testing positive during the regular season. Smart said rising positive tests in Athens and on the University of Georgia campus are cause for concern.

Georgia’s final regular-season game against Vanderbilt was canceled after the Commodores’ roster fell below minimum requirements due to COVID-19 problems. On Sunday, the Music City Bowl between Iowa and Missouri was canceled because the Tigers had too few players available.

There is no apparent imminent threat of the Bulldogs being unable to play against Cincinnati. Smart wouldn’t say his team will be without any player due to COVID-19 testing.