Taylor will be out two weeks

Tony Taylor

ATHENS - Georgia coach Mark Richt opened his weekly Sunday news conference with the bad news.

Starting linebacker Tony Taylor, who suffered a sprained elbow ligament, is expected to be out at least two games, and starting defensive tackle Gerald Anderson is doubtful to play this week against Vanderbilt because symptoms from his two-week old concussion returned. On top of that, reserve defensive end Jeremy Lomax has been shelved for the season due to a high ankle sprain.

"We are finally getting banged up a little bit," Richt said.

Richt would be just as happy not to talk about the No. 5 Bulldogs' good news at least for another month, but the fact is his team is now the favorite to win the SEC's Eastern Division after Saturday's 27-14 win over Tennessee.

Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) has a one-game lead over Florida, its closest competitor in the division, and the Gators play at LSU this weekend while the Bulldogs play the Commodores (4-2, 2-1) in Nashville at 7:15 p.m. ESPN2 will broadcast the game.

"We're in the driver's seat, but we still have a lot of SEC games left," safety Greg Blue said. "You never know which way it can go."

Richt thanked a reporter Sunday for bringing up how poorly Georgia played last year after its biggest win of the season, losing 19-14 to Tennessee after whipping LSU 45-16.

"I'm glad you reminded me of that," he said. "We'll bring that to their attention for sure. Everybody is certainly excited about where we are, but we have a long way to go. Nothing is in the bag certainly."

Just as certainly, though, things will be easier after Saturday's victory, a game which turned on a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown by Thomas Flowers. The play might never have happened if not for the length of television timeouts during games, Richt revealed Sunday.

On Georgia's possession before the return, the Bulldogs faced a fourth-and-two from Tennessee's 37-yard line. After sending his punt team onto the field, Richt called a timeout and had decided to go for it, he said. However, as the television timeout lingered to almost four minutes, he started to doubt that decision so he asked defensive coordinator Willie Martinez for an opinion.

"He said, ‘Let's punt it.' I said, ‘All right, that's what we're going to do,'" Richt said. "That whole scenario was a classic example of trying to change field position and then taking advantage of it. It was huge."

Now the Bulldogs will start getting ready for the Commodores and juggling personnel. Starting weakside linebacker Jarvis Jackson will move to middle linebacker to take Taylor's spot, and Danny Verdun Wheeler will take over at weakside linebacker. Brandon Miller will remain in his regular strongside spot, and Dannell Ellerbe, Marcus Washington, Jamario Smith and Olaolu Sanni-Osomo will back up those three.

Taylor's injury will not require surgery, Richt said, but the earliest he's expected back is the Oct. 29 Florida game. Anderson could return for the Oct. 22 Arkansas game, Richt indicated. Ray Gant will move into his starting spot at defensive tackle.

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