Caleb King’s return to the lineup for Georgia may have been short lived.
The tailback, who missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury, suffered broken jaw and a concussion following a hit in the fourth quarter of Georgia’s loss to LSU last week, and head coach Mark Richt said King was doubtful to play this week against Tennessee.
“There’s a concussion that he also had from the shot that he took, and that’s probably more of a concern right now,” Richt said. “He can’t do anything until the concussion symptoms clear. As soon as they clear, I think they would let him practice immediately with the no-contact and they might OK him to play as early as this week. I don’t think that’s out of the question, but it’s probably not likely.”
King had just seven yards on eight carries last week, but added 30 yards receiving and had been Georgia’s most successful runner in each of the previous two games.
The jaw injury will not require a wire, however, and Richt said there is hope the injury could heal quickly.
“There are different kinds of fractures,” Richt said. “This one the doctors don’t feel will need any type of surgery, and actually, they feel like relatively soon we can protect him to the point where he can play. So it’s not a season-ending thing by any stretch. It might be a stretch to say this week, but we’re not really counting that out.”
True freshman Washaun Ealey saw his first action of the season prior to King’s injury and was the only Bulldogs runner to meet with any type of success against a stout LSU defense.
Still, Richt said he expects Richard Samuel to be the starter this week, just as he has been in each of Georgia’s first five games.
That doesn’t mean Ealey won’t play often, regardless of King’s status, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, and while the freshman was off the field in most passing situations last week, he could see a far bigger role against Tennessee.
“We wanted his first time out of the box put him in a situation where he could be successful and not rattle him with something where he wasn’t successful and would lose confidence,” Bobo said. “But he’s very capable.”
DOWTIN GOES DOWN
Linebacker Marcus Dowtin underwent surgery on a torn ligament in his left ring finger Sunday and said he won’t be available for this week’s game.
Dowtin started two games this season and is third on the Bulldogs in tackles with 26. He sat out all of Tuesday’s practice, and said he’s unlikely to resume contact this week. Dowtin said he hopes to be available in time for Georgia’s Oct. 17 game against Vanderbilt.
“I’m just rehabbing, trying to take it easy on my hand so I can come back next week full go,” Dowtin said.
Christian Robinson and Marcus Washington have handled the majority of the second-team reps at middle linebacker in Dowtin’s absence.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
There were no hard feelings a day after SEC officials admitted a mistake in flagging receiver A.J. Green for an excessive celebration penalty that helped cost Georgia crucial field position in the loss to LSU, Richt said, but that doesn’t mean the issue will go away.
After three players – Green, Orson Charles and LSU’s Charles Scott – were flagged for celebration penalties in last week’s game, Richt said he thinks it’s time that the SEC considers changing the rule, which prohibits players from any gestures officials believe calls attention to themselves or is unsportsmanlike toward an opponent.
“I think it might be time to look at that and say we just have to be careful not to take the joy out of the game for the players and the ability to celebrate something good,” Richt said.
Green was flagged following a go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 left to play. He immediately celebrated with teammates and made no overt gestures following the play, but the referees still called an infraction.
Because the rule is so vague and can so easily be interpreted differently by different officials, quarterback Joe Cox said it essentially forces players to minimize their emotions during the game.
“I do think sometimes it takes away from the emotion that you play with,” Cox said. “Football is an emotional game, and it’s tough when you try to have emotion with your teammates and not try to disrespect the other team, but there’s people trying to get you to stop. I don’t think it’s something that should be penalized.”
STILL A BIG GAME
This week’s meeting between Georgia and Tennessee marks the first time the two teams have faced off while neither was ranked in the top 25 since 1937. But with the Bulldogs coming off an emotional loss to No. 4 LSU last week and the Volunteers still looking for their first SEC win, linebacker Rennie Curran said he has no doubt the players are still treating it as a big game.
“It’s a huge game every time out two teams meet up,” Curran said. “There is a lot of tradition involved, a lot of emotions and goals that can be achieved for whoever wins. It is going to be a big game for both teams.”
BIG CHANGES AREN'T LIKELY
A week after Georgia's porous kick coverage cost the Bulldogs a win over LSU, Richt said he isn't expecting any major changes to how Georgia prepares its special teams.
“It’s very, very difficult as far as time," Richt said. "We are crammed to the gill on this 20-hour rule. Every minute is accounted for and even if you add five minutes to that team, you are going to pull five from something else. Whoever is losing that five minutes is screaming and squawking and rightfully so because they feel like they don’t have enough time to get it just like they want it."
Richt said he believes Georgia already spends more time practicing and meeting with special teams units than most programs, but admits that the lack of experience -- particularly on the kickoff coverage unit -- has been costly.
"We are very, very immature on that team," Richt said. "We have too many young guys side-by-side on those teams, on the kickoff coverage team in particular it’s probably the youngest bunch we’ve ever had out there."
Richt pointed to injuries to special teams stalwarts like Chad Gloer, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, as one reason for the problems, but he said the biggest solution will simply be giving the younger players time to develop.
"You only get good at something through experience," Richt said. "You hate to have bad things happen to you in the process, but they have. … We have to continue to work on our consistency on the hang time and ball placement and guys’ abilities to basically execute what’s being coached.”
With so many young players forced into the special teams units, another option could be involving more of the veterans from Georgia's first- and second-team offense and defense. But that creates a new set of problems, Richt said, which makes the option unlikely.
"Some people think you can just throw a guy in there and all of a sudden he’s good," Richt said. "There is technique involved in that just like there is technique involved in playing linebacker or anyone else. It’s not that easy just to throw someone in there. All that stuff takes reps and time to get better at."
MORE TO COME
Redshirt freshman safety Baccari Rambo has seen his playing time increase each of the past two weeks, and that's a trend that Richt said will continue as the season progresses.
“Rambo is playing well, he’s tackling well, he’s gaining confidence on special teams and at the safety position," Richt said. "He’s got ball skills and he’s got a pick. He just deserves to play. I think it’s good for him, Reshad and Bryan if he gets more reps. You just don’t want those two safeties to get every single rep. I think we’ll see more of Baccari.”
After a career-best 16 tackles against LSU, linebacker Rennie Curran broadened his SEC lead in takedowns to 10 over Vanderbilt's Chris Marve.
The 16-tackle game was a nice highlight, he said, but it was hardly a personal best despite being the high-water mark since arriving at Georgia.
"Going back to high school, I made about 20 tackles a game, so that's something I always strive for," Curran said. "I don't even set limits for myself. I just try to get as many tackles as I can to help this team win. If I have to make 20 or 30, I'm going to do it."
Curran now has 56 tackles through five games after finishing last season with 115, the most by a Bulldogs defender since 1998.
While he said finishing the year as the SEC's top tackler is an honor he's shooting for, it's not his top priority.
“It would be a great accomplishment because when you work hard at something, you want to see results," he said. "It would be awesome. But at the same time, if our defense isn’t well respected in the league and well respected nationally, it wouldn’t mean much to me.”
CALEB'S HIT NOT UNCOMMON
Richt said he had not seen the video of the hit that injured tailback Caleb King but was made aware by several media members Tuesday that it appeared to be an illegal tackle.
Richt said he would investigate it further, but said that hits like the one on King happen often throughout the course of a game and are usually not made maliciously.
“If you watch film you see those kind of shots every single day, every single game," Richt said. "It’s not that unusual to have that. If you are tackling a runner, you have to stick your face at the guy and sometimes a runner at the last second drops his head. There are so many times helmets hit. But again I’ve not seen the shot, so I couldn’t tell you. From what I understand he played after the tackle.”
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Caleb King’s return to the lineup for Georgia may have been short lived.