ATHENS - Chris Conley has moved closer towards being available for Georgia's game at Auburn on Saturday.
Conley practiced with the rest of the team on Wednesday, the first time he has done so since spraining his ankle at Vanderbilt. Conley ran routes and caught a couple passes from Aaron Murray during the early media viewing period of practice.
The junior receiver leads Georgia in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this year. So his presence on the field would be a big lift to Georgia's injury-riddled receiving corps, which got Michael Bennett back two games ago.
Conley's return to practice was almost theatrical: At first he was only running on the side and without shoulder pads. Then as the skill position players gathered for customary passing drills, Conley walked towards them holding shoulder pads. As he got closer tailback Todd Gurley came over and slapped hands with Conley, then looked over at media members.
"I know y'all wanna tweet about it, so go ahead!" Gurley said.
Then Conley put on his shoulder pads and joined the rest of the offense. He caught the first two passes Murray passed to him, before the media viewing period ended.
Conley didn't end up participating in all of practice, according to head coach Mark Richt, who wouldn't categorize Conley's status for the Auburn game, but sounded more optimistic than Tuesday.
"He looked good. He didn't have any setback. He looked promising today," Richt said. "Hopefully he'll keep getting better."
Conley has 30 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns this season.
"I can't really say what we'll do with him, other than if he's healthy enough he'll play. And how much he'll play it's just hard to say right now," Richt said. "He is in better shape than I thought he'd be when I saw him (jogging) on Monday."
Georgia may need to win Saturday's game in an offensive shootout, but there's another reason to discourage the Bulldogs from punting: Chris Davis.
The senior defensive back leads the nation in punt return yardage, averaging 24.1 yards per return, with one touchdown.
Georgia's punt defense has actually been pretty good (4.11 yards per opponent return, ranking 18th in the country). But it's been marred by the three muffed punt snaps, two of them leading to touchdowns.
The main goal the past few weeks for Georgia has been getting a clean punt snap. This week, they have to worry even more about what happens next.
"The biggest key is first you've gotta protect, obviously," Richt said. "And then you hope to kick it high enough where we get our coverage under there and force a fair catch. That's ideal. That's what you want.
"If (Davis) gets started, we're gonna be holding our breath, because everybody has let him get started has paid for it. So the goal is to not let him get started."
More injury notes
Georgia starting left guard Dallas Lee did not participate in the early portion of practice, with freshman Brandon Kublanow continuing to work in Lee's place with the first team. Lee has an elbow strain. Richt said Lee returned in time to do some scout team work.
Starting tight end Arthur Lynch (ribs) was also practicing, as he has all this week. Lynch sat out last Saturday's win over Appalachian State.