ATHENS — The Georgia football team still doesn’t know for sure it will not have its star player this week, and also doesn’t know when it will know.
It has become apparent, however, that it misses its star receiver a lot. And the current situation is “a pain,” to use head coach Mark Richt’s words.
Minus the suspended A.J. Green, Georgia fell at South Carolina on Saturday, and a day later fell out of both the AP and coaches’ top 25 polls. It was the first time since the 2001 season, Richt’s first at Georgia, that the Bulldogs haven’t been ranked this early in the season.
The soonest Green’s appeal to the NCAA could be heard is Tuesday, Richt said Sunday. But nothing definite is set, so the team could hear about Green’s status as soon as Tuesday, or much later.
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The four-game suspension was leveled Wednesday, with one game applied retroactively, and Georgia filed an appeal.
Richt admitted that the situation is a distraction.
“We’re trying to ignore it, but we’re all human,” Richt said. “If you have a player like A.J. Green, you wanna use him.”
Richt said the Bulldogs began game-planning each of the past two weeks as if Green would be available. They had to adjust late in the week each time.
“It’s a pain right now,” Richt said. “It’s kind of tough because even last week we weren’t sure whether or not we had him as we began to plan. So you’re planning for a game with A.J. and then you don’t have him … Now this week we still might find ourselves in the same boat as far as not being sure.”
The appeal’s chances of success are unclear. Part of the reason for the severity of the suspension was that the NCAA ruled that Chris Hawkins, who purchased Green’s jersey, was defined as an agent.
Hawkins told The Telegraph last week that he is not an agent, although he knows some. He said he hoped the NCAA would contact him, and then reduce Green’s suspension.
Richt said he was hopeful about the appeal, but still had no clue which way it could go.
What he did know was that it was easier for South Carolina’s defense to stack the box against Georgia, knowing it didn’t have Green to stretch the field. Ellis Johnson, the Gamecocks’ assistant head coach for defense, said as much after the game.
The Bulldogs were held to 2.3 yards per rush by the Gamecocks.
“I’m sure they had a lot more comfort level doing what they did than if A.J. were there,” Richt said.
The other side of the ball went even worse for the Bulldogs, as Gamecocks freshman Marcus Lattimore gashed them for 182 yards, much of it up the middle.
Richt said he thought part of the problem was not using the right personnel: Justin Anderson and Kwame Geathers, two bigger nose tackles, did not appear on the participation chart. Richt also wanted to get defensive end Abry Jones more playing time.
As for other personnel mattes:
n Changes could be in the offing at the offensive guard spots if the play of starters Cordy Glenn and Chris Davis does not improve.
“We definitely have got to continue to improve up front,” Richt said. “I think our tackles and center played pretty well. I think our guards struggled. We’ve either gotta get better there or make some changes there.”
n Richt had no update on the ankle injury to starting fullback Shaun Chapas. Tailback Caleb King, who missed the South Carolina game with an ankle injury, should be ready for Arkansas, the coach said.
n Tackle Trinton Sturdivant, recovering from two straight knee surgeries, was in for three plays on offense.
“He’s feeling his way through still a little bit,” Richt said. “I think his playing time will increase every week.”