The redshirt freshman defensive back had hoped to win the job in the preseason, but he scared head coach Mark Richt with inconsistent hands during practice.
“I told (punt return coordinator Jon) Fabris, ‘I don’t feel comfortable with him back there,’” Richt said. “(Flowers) came to me and wanted to plead his case. I said, ‘Don’t be hurt, it may come around,’ and it did come around.”
That only happened after Tyson Browning and then Tim Jennings both lost the job by dropping balls during games. Thomas Flowers not only has proven to be more sure-handed than Browning and Jennings, he’s also taken big hits against both Arkansas and Florida without flinching.
“You can hit me all you want, I’m going to bounce back up,” said Flowers, who has returned six punts for 72 yards. “I kind of proved myself.”
Richt said, “Thomas showed me a lot. I’ve developed a lot of confidence in him.”
MANNING’S BLESSING: Georgia quarterback David Greene guessed that Peyton Manning wasn’t even aware that Greene is on the verge of breaking Manning’s record for Division I-A victories. That’s not true, though. Not only does Manning know it but he’s all for it.
Manning and Greene know each other because Greene helps coach at the Manning’s passing camp.
“I couldn’t think of a better guy to break that record,” said Manning, who is now the quarterback of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. “That’s one I’ve always taken pride in, with my appreciation of college football and especially the Southeastern Conference. David has had an outstanding career there at Georgia, and I’m real proud of him. I was going to write him a note when he breaks the record.
“I had a great time in college and enjoyed everything about the college football experience. I think David kind of has that same appreciation about the game and the history of it.”
NO NEED FOR DEPTH: The down side of the great seasons being had by senior wide receivers Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown is being felt by the rest of the Bulldog pass-catchers. Bryan McClendon is Georgia’s third-leading wide receiver, and he has only five catches.
Gibson and Brown have combined for 76 catches, while the rest of the wide receivers have a total of 12.
“It’s kind of hard to take Reggie or Fred out of there,” Richt said. “I think Sean Bailey has really come on even though we don’t see a lot of catches in the game. But I like all of them, and I think they’re going to be good players.”
The emergence of tight end Leonard Pope, who has 11 catches, also has cut into the balls that might have gone to backup wide receivers, Richt said.
STATUS QUO: Don’t expect major changes on the Bulldogs’ kickoff return team this week despite the fact that it ranks 115th in the nation. Richt felt his team made progress two weeks ago against Arkansas, and he’s not counting the Florida game since the Gators have such an athletic and unconventional kickoff coverage team.
“I’m reserving my judgment one more game and giving those guys the opportunity to prove they’re better than they’ve been showing,” Richt said.
One change will have to be made since returner Tyson Browning is out due to an ankle injury. Tra Battle probably will replace Browning, Richt said.
WHAT BACKUPS: True freshman Kelin Johnson will be Georgia’s only scholarship backup at safety this week. Thomas Davis is doubtful due to ankle and knee sprains, leaving only Tra Battle, Greg Blue and Johnson.
“We’ll take an extra jersey and, if something happens, we’re going to dress out (secondary coach Willie Martinez) and play him,” defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said.
More likely, walk-on Drew Williams or Chris Burgett will fill the role if needed.
NOT AN EASY WEEK: Just because Kentucky’s defense is bad, last in the SEC in rushing yards allowed and ninth in total yards allowed, doesn’t mean Georgia’s offensive coaches have taken the week off.
The Wildcats play a 3-4 defense, rather than the 4-3 favored by almost all of Georgia’s other opponents.
“We’ve spent more time on their defense than some of the others because it’s a little different from some of the others,” Richt said.