The Gurley that got away (from Clemson)

semerson@macon.comAugust 28, 2013 

ATHENS - Apparently, you most remember the times when a big one got away.

Georgia star tailback Todd Gurley nearly went to Clemson, as Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney recalled on Tuesday. In nearly painstaking detail, Swinney recalled the day Gurley committed to Georgia, one month after fellow tailback Keith Marshall also chose Georgia over Clemson. Swinney remembered that he and Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt were exchanging phone calls over another matter, and on the morning of Gurley's announcement, Richt was working out on a treadmill when Swinney reached him.

"I kind of knew right then he wasn't too worried," Swinney said at his press conference. "He's on the treadmill and he's talking to me. I starting thinking we're not getting Gurley, then I started thinking 'How in the world did they get these two great backs?' "

Richt said he "kind of" remembered the conversation, but didn't quite remember being on the treadmill.

"I'm sure it happened," Richt said, then smiled. "I'm 53 years old, OK?"

Perhaps Richt didn't really have a heads-up. Gurley said he didn't talk to anyone that day until he almost committed. He did text Marshall to say he was coming. (Gurley also pointed out that Clemson wasn't the only other school he considered.)

"As it turned out, getting Gurley and Keith in that recruiting class was just really, really big for us," Richt said. "I don't know what we would've looked like a year ago without, considering everything else that had happened."

Matthews officially cleared

Freshman safety Tray Matthews has been officially cleared to play by head athletic trainer Ron Courson. Matthews returned to practice this week after missing practice or being limited by a hamstring injury.

While it's good news that Matthews can play, Richt is still unsure how Matthews will respond in the game, because the team has been going at a slower tempo the past few days. That's especially the case with Matthews, as the team has been careful not to risk aggravating the hamstring injury.

"We didn't want any setbacks, and I don't think he has really gone full-speed - he may have gone full speed a few times, or once or twice, but nothing like will really happen in a game," Richt said. "So I'm not even sure if he knows how he'll do right now. But right now we do plan on playing him."

Douglas and Turman ruled out

Freshmen tailbacks Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman will not be healthy enough to play. Turman has missed a lot of practices with knee and ankle sprains, and Douglas has been slowed by a sprained knee.

"J.J. (Green) is No. 3. The other two guys that were pushing were Turman and Douglas, and they've been hurt, so they just haven't been able to get themselves in position to win the No. 3 spot," Richt said. "There's a good chance both of them will be back Monday, so we'll let them see what they can do."

Crowd noise simulation

There was crowd noise piped in to practice on Wednesday, the first time the team has done that in preseason practice. They've done it earlier in previous years, but Richt said it inhibited the ability of players to hear coaches.

The team will hold another simulated game on Thursday at Sanford Stadium, and Richt said the noise would be "cranked up" even more then.

"The good news is Murray's been through a lot of games like that, had to communicate that way. Most of our offensive players have lived through it," Richt said. "So it shouldn't come as too much of a shock. But first time, first game of the year, everybody's gotta focus, no doubt."

Killing time

It's a late kickoff of Saturday night. Very late, actually, at 8:22 p.m., and Georgia is driving up on Friday, per the usual travel plan. Even though it's a relatively short drive, the coaches would prefer not to travel the day of the game.

So how do you handle all that free time on Saturday? There will be a team breakfast for "anybody who wants it," according to Richt, and then a mandatory lunch meal. Then there will be meetings, walk-throughs and video sessions. They'll also be watching other games.

"The main thing is there'll be a chance to sleep in a little bit," Richt said.

Davis will play

Freshman receiver Reggie Davis has put himself in position to play as early as on Saturday, despite the team's depth at that position.

"I think Reggie will play," Richt said. "I don't know how much. But he's been practicing. He's not been on the scout team. He's been practicing with the offense. That usually means you're at least in thought process of possibly going in the game."

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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