Bulldogs unsure about Thurman's return

Mark Richt was a little more dressed up than usual at his first weekly media lunch of the year, but the reason was solemn.

ATHENS — Mark Richt was a little more dressed up than usual at his first weekly media lunch of the year, but the reason was solemn.

The Georgia head coach was in coat and tie, for he was attending Tuesday afternoon's funeral Tuesday for the father of linebacker Odell Thurman. Otis Thurman died Friday of kidney and liver failure.

"It's important that someone represent the team at the funeral," he said. "I can do it because I have a great staff that can get the job done. I know coaches and players would all like to be there, but the timing of it, it's too much of a logistical problem to make that change. We considered it, though."

Richt said he wasn't sure when Thurman would return to campus. Des Williams, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound freshman from Dacula, is listed as Thurman's backup.

"We don't know how he'll react when he comes back," he said. "We'll just worry then. If he's back in his heart, and his spirit is into playing the ballgame, we'll play him. If he's not mentally ready to play, we won't play him."

Thurman lost his mother 10 years ago so Richt had plenty of empathy for the sophomore from Monticello.

"I can't imagine," Richt said. "It's just a tough thing."

Richt did lean slightly toward speculating that Thurman might be back.

"Until there's closure to it ..." he said. "The funeral a lot of times helps bring some closure to the reality of it. We'll just see how he is."

INJURY UPDATE: Rover Kentrell Curry (leg) and defensive tackle Ken Veal(ankle) won't play Saturday, ending some speculation that one or both could be healthy enough to get a few snaps in.

Richt said he doubted either would be in uniform but said both would make the trip.

"(Veal) will be there, being a positive force on the sideline, and give us some leadership that we really need. Curry will be there the same."

Richt said he didn't know when Curry's next bone scan would be, so he wasn't able to offer a comeback date for the senior from Toccoa.

Defensive linemen Dale Dixson (concussion) and Gerald Anderson (neck) are banged up.

READY FOR BOTH: Neither Charlie Whitehurst nor Chansi Stuckey is completely healthy at quarterback for Clemson.

Whitehurst, who will start, has a thumb injury. Stuckey, the former all-Middle Georgia Player of the Year at Northside, has been battling a strained abdominal muscle.

Not that Richt's worried much about the situation.

"We have to prepare as if both will be there," he said. "I think both will play."

A year ago, Stuckey played the role of Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley in practice.

BROTHERLY LOVE: Clemson has a Howard, and Georgia has a Howard, and they're brothers.

J.J. Howard and Marcus Howard both went to Hanahan High in South Carolina.

J.J. will make his first college start Saturday. The graduate student is penciled in at defensive end. He has played in 37 straight games.

Marcus is a 6-2, 210-pound freshman was one of South Carolina's top prep players last year as well as running track. Barring an avalanche of injuries on defense, he'll be redshirted.

It's the first time brothers have been opponents at Memorial Stadium since 1980 when Mark Richardson played for Clemson and John suited up for North Carolina. They're the sons of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

NEWS 'N NOTES: A record season-opening crowd of 83,000 is expected for Saturday's game.

The largest Clemson-Georgia crowd in Clemson was 83,127 in 1990 for a 34-3 Tigers win. The current record for the home opener is 81,482 against Central Florida in 2001. ...

The Bulldogs will don black cleats Saturday for the first time since the 1996 season. Georgia used black-cleated turf shoes last year for the SEC Championship game and the Sugar Bowl. ...

Richt said whichever tailback did the best with assignments this week would be Tony Milton's backup. That race is between redshirt freshmen Michael Cooper and Ronnie Powell

Georgia began and ended last year with a win over a Bowden, and now faces one for the second straight game. ...

The last time Clemson shut out Georgia was in1909, a 5-0 win in Augusta.

Quotable: "I'm glad you reminded me of that. I hadn't really thought of that." Richt, after a reporter asked if he had started working on special crowd noise situations in practice yet.

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