With Gurley sidelined, UGA’s young backs ‘preparing to play’

Georgia running back Todd Gurley is shown on the sideline after leaving the game with an injury during the second half of Saturday’s game against LSU. (Reuters)

Georgia running back Todd Gurley is shown on the sideline after leaving the game with an injury during the second half of Saturday’s game against LSU. (Reuters)

ATHENS — The bad news: the No. 6-ranked Georgia Bulldogs remain uncertain about Todd Gurley’s availability for the Tennessee game this weekend. The good news: nobody seems too concerned about it.

Tests on Sunday confirmed that Gurley sprained his left ankle — no break, no ligament tear — with 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Bulldogs’ 44-41 win over then-No. 6 LSU on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Coach Mark Richt, speaking to reporters on a conference call Sunday night, said Gurley’s status heading into the week was “day-to-day,” and on Tuesday Richt echoed that same prognosis.

“When we say day-to-day, that’s the best way to describe it, because you don’t know how fast a guy will heal, and how fast the swelling will go down,” Richt told the Macon Telegraph.

Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2013/10/01/2695776/appalachian-state-game-time-announced.html#storylink=cpy

But while Gurley is certainly an extraordinary tailback, Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) is blessed to have some other pretty good ones. With Gurley sidelined, fellow sophomore Keith Marshall responded with 96 yards on 20 carries against the Tigers. And freshman J.J. Green, who had to come in for one play on the Bulldogs’ game-winning drive, got 18 yards on his only carry.

Green and fellow freshman Brendan Douglas will get heavy scrutiny this week as the Bulldogs decide which one will be the primary backup to Marshall if Gurley can’t go at Tennessee.

“(Green) did very well and he’s definitely going to have to have more carries this week,” Richt said. “Douglas will have to have more carries this week, too, if we can’t get Gurley ready to go. We can’t just wait to see what’s going to happen. So they’re definitely going to get more reps in practice because I don’t see Gurley going full speed Monday or Tuesday.

“Like I said, we’ve kind of got to go day-to-day with it. My guess is Gurley’s going to be limited in practice. So these guys have to get those reps and be ready to play.”

Richt said starting left tackle Kenarious Gates, who also hobbled out of the game on that final drive, seems to be OK. Or, at least, trainer Ron Courson did not bring him up, so he assumes Gates will be available.

Since the preseason, when Richt was repeatedly asked about the four-game gauntlet the Bulldogs’ had to endure in the season’s first month, he always brought up the Tennessee game. The Vols (3-2, 0-1) are in a rebuilding mode this season under first-year coach Butch Jones. But Richt maintains that playing Tennessee and Neyland Stadium remains one of the most difficult challenges in football regardless of the season or circumstance.

“I just know what it’s like to go there,” he said. “I know what it’s like to play in front of their crowd, which is going to be really excited. I know what it’s like to play against anybody in our league. And we’re not very good, in my opinion, unless we’re really locked in on both sides of the ball and special teams. If we’re not really focused and playing as hard as we can, we’re just not very good. So this week, we’ve got to get that going.”

The Vols are coming off a hard-fought game in which they had to stave off a late rally from South Alabama to avoid the upset and won 31-24. Safety Brian Randolph intercepted a pass on fourth-and-goal with 1:51 remaining to preserve the victory. They lost 31-17 at Florida in their only SEC contest so far.