ATHENS - Georgia has some good news on the injury front.
Junior receiver Michael Bennett's timetable for return is under a month, and the goal is for him to play against Florida on Nov. 2.
"My best guess, and I'm not a doctor or anything, just from what I'm hearing, but my best guess is he has a really good shot at the Florida game," head coach Mark Richt said after Wednesday's practice.
Bennett had surgery for a tear in the meniscus in his right knee on Tuesday. The optimism for a quick return is based on Bennett's knee meniscus not requiring repair, just "cleaning up," according to Richt.
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Bennett was one of three knee injuries in Georgia's overtime win over Tennessee: The two were season-ending ACLs for receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and tailback Keith Marshall.
Meanwhile, there is no change in status for tailback Todd Gurley, who missed the Tennessee game with a sprained ankle. Gurley tried to test the ankle early in practice, but wasn't ready to do more than that.
"By the time I looked over there he was kind of walking off the field," Richt said. "But I talked to Ron (Courson, the head athletic trainer) about it, and he did OK. But he's not ready to practice right now. ...
"I'm not gonna count him out (for Saturday's game against Missouri), because he is progressing, he is getting better. If I say he's out now, and by Friday he feels real good then I would look kinda foolish. So he's rehabbing, he's feeling better, but not enough to practice today."
Fullback Quayvon Hicks did practice on Wednesday, after missing a couple days with an ankle and knee injury.
Veteran walk-on Michael Erdman and redshirt freshman Blake Tibbs remain the most likely players to step into the voids at receiver. Richt said he had been pleased by how they had looked in practice this week.
"They don't look lost. It's not like we're starting from scratch with Erdman and Tibbs," Richt said. "It's not like taking two brand new redshirt freshmen who thought they were gonna be redshirted and throwing them in there. So I feel good."
Erdman, a junior from Merritt Island, Fla., has appeared in 14 games the past two seasons but has yet to catch a pass, and has not seen the field yet this season. Tibbs has yet to play at all, but seems likely to debut on Saturday.
Tibbs had a good summer, but was caught in a numbers game, according to Richt.
"We had some other guys that we felt were in a better position to make that top six or seven that we were working with. But he was moving in the right direction," Richt said. "And now with some of these injuries, now his opportunity is here. Here's a wonderful chance for him to show coach (Tony) Ball, coach (Mike) Bobo and myself that he can be a dependable performer."
Turman redshirting dilemma
If Gurley can't go, then J.J. Green is the starter, and fellow freshman Brendan Douglas is the top backup. The question remains who would be the No. 3 tailback. Freshman A.J. Turman, who was more highly-regarded coming out of high school than Green and Douglas, has yet to play because of a preseason injury, but the question now is whether to burn his redshirt. Walk-ons Brandon Harton and Kyle Karempelis are also getting reps in practice.
Richt said he hasn't sat down to discuss it with Turman, but imagines he would be "all for" playing this year.
"The other coaches have been talking to him the last few weeks, and he seems to be excited about getting reps with the ones and twos, or whatever reps that he's getting right now," Richt said. "He doesn't look like a guy who's bummed out about a possible opportunity. He seems to be a guy that's kind of anxious about it. So that helps."
Explanation on punt penalty
Richt seemed satisfied with an explanation he received from the SEC on a critical penalty against Georgia at Tennessee.
Blake Sailors was called for a rare defensive delay of game penalty, which allowed Tennessee to go from fourth-and-6 to fourth-and-1. The Volunteers went for it and converted, and eventually scored a go-ahead touchdown.
Officials ruled that Sailors had flinched in an effort to get the offensive linemen to jump. The Tennessee player did jump, and the penalty was called on Sailors.
"Sailors might have been doing that for four years, and somebody finally flinched, which was bad," Richt said.
Richt was standing level to the line of scrimmage on the sideline, so he saw Sailors flinch.
"I try to stay in the neutral zone, because if I see (the opponent) in the neutral zone I wanna help the official, you know?" Richt said. "So I saw (Sailors) do his thing, but I knew he wasn't in the neutral zone, and I thought we were golden. I'm like, We're good. I always thought it was if you're in the neutral zone, if you're in his space, then that's a penalty. But whether you're in the neutral zone or not, if you make an action that's not normal defense, a defensive play in the official's mind, then that's against you."
Video from Richt's post-practice press conference: