Georgia’s already thin wide receiver corps took another big hit this week.
Head coach Mark Richt said freshman receiver Tavarres King was “very unlikely” to make the trip to Tennessee for Saturday’s game after suffering a concussion last week against LSU.
That leaves Georgia with just five healthy scholarship receivers, but only two – A.J. Green and Michael Moore – have any significant playing time this season.
“All hands will be on deck, I can say that,” Richt said.
Tight end Orson Charles and cornerback Branden Smith have both been used in wide receiver roles at various times this season, but the injury to King likely means more playing time for sophomore Israel Troupe and freshmen Rantavious Wooten and Marlon Brown.
One of the country’s most highly recruited receivers last year, Brown has seen just a handful of snaps so far this season and has not caught a pass, but Richt said he has continued to make progress during practice and could be part of the game plan this week.
“He’s one step closer than he was before Tavarres getting hurt,” Richt said. “He’s not a whole lot different than what was happening with Washaun Ealey. We kept getting him ready and getting him to the point where he could function in a game, and Marlon is rapidly moving in that direction.”
Playing time would be particularly rewarding for Brown this week, as the Memphis native would have a chance to play in front of his home-state fans against a program that was in hot pursuit of him during the recruiting process.
That extra bit of pressure doesn’t worry offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, however.
“He’s an even-keeled kid who works hard,” Bobo said. “I think he’s got the right attitude and he’ll be successful if he keeps that attitude.”
King has 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown in five games this season. Wooten has two catches, and Brown and Troupe have yet to record a reception in 2009.
PULLED IN ALL DIRECTIONS
After working a few snaps on offense in each of Georgia’s first four games, Smith might see less action on that side of the ball for the next few weeks.
Smith, who has one catch for 3 yards and six rushes for 80 yards this season, didn’t earn a touch on offense last week against LSU after his practice time with the group was cut short during the preceding week.
“With some injuries at corner, he’s been playing more corner here lately, so practice time with Branden has gone down a little bit,” Bobo said. “Yeah, it’s easy to draw up a play and say we’re going to do this play, but if you don’t have guys to practice it, it’s a little more difficult.”
The same situation holds true with backup quarterback Logan Gray, who Bobo said has been avoided in the game plan because of an injury to third-string quarterback Aaron Murray.
“You have Aaron Murray out and your backup in the game running some plays, if you get him hurt, that puts you in a situation where you really don’t have a back-up quarterback,” Bobo said. “So that changes your thought process a little bit of what you’re going to do offensively with Logan Gray.”
Despite the apparent limitations on two of Georgia’s change-of-pace weapons, Bobo said both Gray and Smith will continue to have a role in the playbook.
“There’ll always be a few plays with (Smith) in the game plan and with Logan,” Bobo said. “But it just depends on what we feel gives us the best chance.”
MORE INJURY NEWS
Tailback Caleb King also suffered a concussion and a broken jaw after a hit during last week’s game, and Richt said he was almost certain that sophomore Richard Samuel would get the start this week.
Linebackers Marcus Dowtin and Akeem Dent will miss this week’s game as well. Dent is still recovering from a lingering hamstring injury that has kept him out of the past two games, and Dowtin underwent surgery on a torn ligament in his left ring finger on Sunday.
Senior Marcus Washington and sophomore Nick Williams will likely handle the majority of the reps Dent and Dowtin would have played, but Richt said there was a chance some of the younger linebackers such as Christian Robinson, Akeem Hebron and Charles White could see action, too.
“We’ve been repping them all along and giving them as much work as we can, and more than likely they’ll get more opportunity in the game than they have,” Richt said.
While Gray may not be seeing much action at quarterback so far this season, he’s getting plenty of work on special teams. Gray has worked on Georgia’s kickoff coverage unit and has been the team’s primary punt returner in situations where a fair catch is likely.
Those were roles Gray played last season, but he said he wasn’t expecting another year of action. But he’s not complaining.
“I think it comes with being the backup quarterback, I wasn’t going to do as many special teams,” Gray said. “Coming into the season, I didn’t even think I was going to catch punts. It was sort of a last-second thing with our punt safe team when we know a fair catch is coming, I guess Coach (Jon) Fabris wanted me to keep doing it.”
MY BAD, GUYS
Brandon Boykin is used to celebrating interceptions, but after making his second pick of the season to halt a potential touchdown drive against LSU, the sophomore cornerback immediately knew he had messed up.
With the Tigers driving deep into Georgia territory in the first quarter, Boykin picked off a Jordan Jefferson pass in the end zone. Rather than settle for a touchback, however, Boykin attempted to return the interception. He was tackled at the 2-yard line, and Georgia's offense was unable to sustain a drive. The result was bad field position for much of the fist half for the Bulldogs.
"That was my fault," Boykin said. "It wasn’t very smart of me to take that out. I was just trying to make a play, and initially I thought there was daylight, but there wasn’t. The smart thing to do would have been to take a knee and give my offense great field position. But I can’t look at that. If I get the opportunity to take it in the end zone, I definitely will take a knee, so it was a learning experience and I’ll get better from it.”
For the second straight year, Georgia's kickoffs have been an adventure, but this season there is one big difference: Richt has an alternative to kicker Blair Walsh.
The Bulldogs signed junior college transfer Brandon Bogotay during the offseason to push Walsh for the kickoff job, and while a change hasn't come yet, Richt said the team has given some thought to handing the job to Bogotay if Walsh continues to struggle.
"It's been considered," Richt said. "We haven't done it to this point, but everybody's got to perform and certainly we want Blair to do that. I definitely don't want to throw him under the bus for all the issues on that team, but it's been part of the issue, not getting it where we need to get it. The ball placement hasn't been as sharp."
-- I noted this last week, but Bobo was a bit more emphatic in his pronouncement this week -- quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger will both redshirt, barring an injury to one of Georgia's top two quarterbacks.
-- Tight ends coach John Lilly said that there still has been no decision on whether tight end Bruce Figgins will accept a medical redshirt for this season. Figgins will be serving the sixth and final game of a suspension this week and would be eligible to return to action against Vanderbilt on Oct. 17. Lilly said the ultimate decision on whether to play would be up to Figgins.
-- Richt on today's practice session: "I thought today's practice was good. I thought the guys played with good tempo, good focus. Overall it's been a really good Tuesday and Wednesday. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. We're going to go over to the stadium and crank the noise and try to get it so loud we can't hear. Hopefully we don't blow a speaker."
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Georgia’s already thin wide receiver corps took another big hit this week.