For a two-week stretch, Chris Conley was Georgia’s only healthy first-string receiver.
He left Knoxville, Tenn., with a highlight reel of his one-handed touchdown grab, not with an injury.
But on the final play against Vanderbilt, Conley became just one of the many. The junior, who has 30 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns, went up for a Hail Mary from quarterback Aaron Murray and came down with a sprained ankle.
Conley, who missed Georgia’s outings against Florida and Appalachian State, is still questionable for Saturday’s game.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he doesn’t think Conley will be able to practice at full-speed this week.
“If Chris was able to practice full speed the whole week, I’d feel a lot better about trying to predict his impact,” Richt said. “He may not even play, but I don’t even know that yet.”
Richt added that Conley’s knowledge of the offensive system and his experience in big games would help his chances of jumping into Saturday’s lineup after not seeing a lot of practice time during the week. That is, if Conley’s ankle proves healthy enough. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he’d be a game-time decision.
“He would have a lot better chance than most guys though,” Richt said.
Receiver Michael Bennett, who returned against Florida from minor knee surgery, said Georgia’s offense would greatly benefit if Conley is able to play Saturday.
“It’d be huge. He’s a really good receiver and been having a big breakout year this year,” Bennett said. “… He’s a hard worker, so as long as he’s getting in and doing his rehab, see how his body responds and see if he can go.”
Bulldogs face another top-10 matchup
Georgia’s last time in the rankings was before a 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt on Oct. 19. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 15 in The Associated Press poll but dropped out after falling to the unranked Commodores.
Richt, whose team came in at No. 25 in this week’s AP poll, said dropping out of the rankings makes a team less visible in the college football landscape.
“When you drop out of the top 25, you drop out of the national conscience to a certain degree,” he said. “It’s even something as simple as the top 25 scores getting shown over and over throughout all these games across America, no matter what channel you’re looking at, and then you don’t see Georgia’s score.”
But the No. 7 Tigers play host for the Bulldogs’ fourth matchup of the season against a top-10 team. The Bulldogs are 2-1 in the previous teams with wins over South Carolina and LSU and the loss coming against Clemson in the season opener.
“(The Tigers) are the team with the greatest turnaround of anybody from last year to this year,” Richt said.
The series between Georgia and Auburn is knotted up 54-54-8 heading into Saturday’s game. Defensive lineman Garrison Smith, who grew up a Georgia fan, said he remembers the early 2000s games between the Bulldogs and Tigers.
“I especially remember the games when they had the two great running backs, Cadillac (Williams) and Ronnie Brown,” Smith said. “It was just always a good game when them two teams played against each other.”
Georgia plays at Auburn for the third time in four years, a quirk in schedule, Richt pointed out, that a few seniors said they wish hadn’t come up.
“Yeah, you’d rather play at home, but our schedule this year, I kind of like the way it worked out,” receiver Rhett McGowan. “Going up there, I like going up there and playing. It’s a fun atmosphere.”
Richt sensed Garner would leave
As has happened a few times this season, Georgia will see another similar face on the opposite sideline wearing a coach’s headset at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
Rodney Garner, a longtime Georgia assistant, took the associate head coach/recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach job at Auburn under first-year coach Gus Malzahn about 10 months ago.
Richt said it was easy to tell early on in the process that Garner wanted to take the position at his alma mater.
“He may not have said it right away, but I had a pretty strong suspicion that he was very attracted to them this time around,” Richt said. “He’s had some other opportunities to go back home or back to Auburn, but this time I think just had a different overall tone to it.”
Garner, whose Auburn defensive line has recorded 40 tackles for loss and 21 sacks so far this season, had spent the previous 15 seasons at Georgia and took on the associate head coach title for the Bulldogs in the 2005 season.
“That was one of those where it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about whatever, but it was just about whether he wanted to go home to his college team,” Richt said.
Richt said Garner’s decision probably helped the Tigers land defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson, who have combined for eight tackles for loss and four sacks in their freshman season.
“I think Carl was kind of in the house by the time Coach Garner made the decision, but Montravius had not decided (before Garner left Georgia),” Richt said. “I think Montravius’ decision probably had a lot to do with Coach Garner being there. I think Carl was probably already going.”
TB Marshall’s surgery ‘went well’
Tailback Keith Marshall underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair his torn ACL that he suffered against Tennessee on Oct. 5.
Richt said director of sports medicine Ron Courson told him the surgery went well.
“Ron thought it went well, from what he told us,” Richt said. “He’ll probably be in the hospital for a day or two and then just start rehabbing.”
Fellow tailback Todd Gurley said Tuesday night that he had not gone to the hospital to see Marshall yet.
“I’m going to let the guy get his time,” Gurley said. “I don’t want to bother him. I know he’s probably drugged up or whatever.”
Gurley said Marshall hasn’t been taking the injury too hard despite shedding tears when he was on the sideline at Neyland Stadium after sustaining the injury.
“There’s no reason to get pressed over it. Things happen. You just learn from it and try to come back harder,” Gurley said. “… Just a little motivation for him.”
Bobo said tight end Arthur Lynch, who missed Saturday’s game with bruised ribs, “looked good” in practice on Tuesday and will likely play at Auburn. … Gurley said his ankle “definitely” feels a lot better. “Especially from last Monday to this Monday,” he added. He said the weather on Saturday at Auburn could determine how his conditioning holds up throughout the game. “If it’s cold then I’ll probably be in better condition than I would be if it was hot.” … Bennett said he hasn’t felt any lingering effects from his minor knee surgery. “When you get out there and you think about (the injury), you’re thinking about the wrong thing,” Bennett said. “You need to think about what you’re doing and catching the ball and getting the block and stuff.” … Through Garner’s years at Georgia, he would host players for Thanksgiving who could not travel home for the holiday. Without Garner, that duty has been passed on to Thomas Settles, team chaplain, Gurley said. Richt wasn’t as certain during his midday news conference. “I’m not exactly sure what Plan B is, but I’ve been thinking about it.” … Players in noncontact jerseys during Tuesday’s practice: Lynch, defensive back Marc Deas (quad), linebackers AJ McDonald and T.J. Stripling (ankle).