Michael Erdman could see increased playing time as the Bulldogs deal with injuries.
Oct. 8, 2013
ATHENS, Ga.----Even after surviving an overtime test against Tennessee on the road, No. 7 Georgia’s victory wasn’t the biggest story. Instead it was the multiple injuries the Bulldogs picked up that generated the most attention outside the program. Inside the locker room and coaches offices, however, there hasn’t been too much reflection on who won’t be in uniform when Missouri comes to Athens on Saturday. The focus instead, has been on the players who will get their opportunity to play in a Georgia uniform.
With receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett, and tailback Keith Marshall going down in Knoxville, joining tailback Todd Gurley and receiver Malcolm Mitchell on the sideline, it is the offense that has experienced the most attrition. Defensively, however, both safeties that started the season opener were missing with Tray Matthews battling a hamstring injury and Connor Norman dealing with a concussion.
Head coach Mark Richt said that, despite the amount of injuries Georgia is currently experiencing, the Bulldogs have kept their heads up ahead of facing a fourth ranked team in six games.
“I think we’re fine. We’re ready to go to battle again. Football is a physical game with injuries, and other teams have injuries,” Richt said. “Some guys are very excited about the opportunity to make more contributions, and the rest of the guys are excited about making their phase of the game stronger in order to help the spots that we’re wounded at, to a certain degree. I think everybody’s excited about the challenge of it all.”
Richt went on to single out some receivers that he believes will make an impact in the absence of Scott-Wesley and Bennett. The 13th-year head coach believes that junior Michael Erdman and redshirt freshman Blake Tibbs will see increased playing time.
Senior quarterback Aaron Murray said that, even with teammates leaving the field at seemingly regular intervals, the offense that has proved so effective for the Bulldogs this season didn’t and won’t change much.
“We ran our offense the same. We would definitely love to be at full strength but injuries happen. It’s football, those things are going to happen and it’s just the next guy up,” Murray said. “Those young guys, especially the receivers, are going to have to work hard this week. We’ve already started getting some extra time in yesterday working on some routes after practice and we’re going to have to do that every day this week. Working before practice, during practice, and after practice to make sure our timing is on.”
For senior tight end Arthur Lynch, having to adjust in a hostile environment like Neyland Stadium can only help the Bulldogs going forward.
“I think you have to look at some of the young guys who got playing time in a tough environment on the road last Saturday. Then you have to look at a guy like (Rantavious) Wooten who has been here five years, a guy who really had one of the better games of his career the other day,” Lynch said. “It’s still good to know that he can play at a high level. Chris Conley, obviously what he has done this season speaks for itself. Rhett (McGowan) was put in this situation last year. He’s a guy who’s highly capable of making plays. Reggie (Davis) has been playing good as well, s you have four or five guys with that experience that can get the job done.”
Defensively the damage hasn’t been quite as bad, however it still is something that touches that side of the ball as well. Defensive end Garrison Smith believes that every player should be prepared to play regardless of the injury situation.
“That’s what the game is all about. Guys have to step up every week. That’s why they’re on scholarship and that’s why the coaches recruit them,” Smith said. “It’s time that they have to play. That’s what it’s all about. Somebody has to step up every week.”
Georgia will be looking for a new face to step up on Saturday at noon ET with seventh ranked Bulldogs taking on the No. 25 Missouri Tigers. The game will be televised live on ESPN.