ATHENS -- It is a season benchmark Mark Richt will not acknowledge. And yet going back to the spring and summer, it was a vitally important one for the Georgia football team.
Before the season began, any big doubts about the Bulldogs as contenders began with the fact that the defense was racked with suspensions: Four projected starters were out for the first two games, including the SEC opener at Missouri, and two more would miss the first four games.
The goal, it seemed, was for Georgia to survive.
Instead the Bulldogs did more. They thrived.
Georgia has emerged from the opening stretch with a 4-0 record, a rank of No. 5 in the AP and coaches polls and an average margin of victory of 31 points.
I think everybodys that had an opportunity to play more than they would have has benefitted from it, and weve won to this point through it all, Richt said. So thats good, too.
The expectation is that Georgia will finally return to a full deck when Tennessee (3-1) visits on Saturday. But Richt remained coy Sunday when asked whether safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree will play.
Yeah, well figure it out in pregame warmup, I guess. Just like last week, Richt said.
That appeared to be saying that once again the only indication whether they will play would be whether Rambo and Ogletree are dressed.
But the evidence would indicate that the pair will be back this week:
It has been widely reported, although never confirmed, that Rambo and Ogletree ran afoul of the schools student-athlete drug policy. The punishment for a second violation is a four-game violation, and Georgia has now played four games.
Cornerback Malcolm Mitchell said last week, After this game we get some guys back.
Fullback Zander Ogletree, who also has not played and by all signs is suspended, tweeted last week, All I got to say when next Monday come Me,
Freshman tailback Todd Gurley is the SECs leading rusher and ranks 11th nationally in all-purpose yardage, thanks to his kick returns. After Saturdays game, senior Tavarres King called Gurleys second touchdown, a 29-yarder in which he shed several tacklers, Herschel Walker-ish.
Richt said Sunday that Gurleys performances have just mirrored what he did in the preseason. Or perhaps were a bit better.
We got a pretty good taste of what he was gonna look like, Richt said. Ill just say we were all really looking forward to look like in some real games. Because we were hopeful that he would do just what he was doing in the scrimmages. And thats what hes been doing. And maybe just a tad bit more.
Richt didnt have a firm injury update on defensive end Abry Jones, who hurt his ankle in the game. But Richt reiterated that he doesnt think its serious.
Safety Shawn Williams appears good to go after being slowed a bit against Vanderbilt. Richt said Williams had a spasm in his groin, but was able to play through it.
The one who got away
Tennessee junior receiver Cordarelle Patterson was a key recruiting target for Georgia earlier this year. Patterson chose the Vols on National Signing Day and is now the teams second-leading receiver, with 19 catches for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
We knew he was a special player. We wanted him big time, and he just looked a big-time difference maker, big playmaker, Richt said of the former junior-college player. The fact hes a couple years out of high school, even more a threat to come in and make some things happen immediately.