ATHENS - When Aaron Murray lost two of his top receivers in one game, that created a crash course in getting in sync with their replacements last week. It's still a work in progress, Murray admitted on Tuesday.
After Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett were hurt at Tennessee, joining Malcolm Mitchell on the sideline, Georgia worked in younger and inexperienced players like redshirt freshman Blake Tibbs and walk-ons Michael Erdman and Kenneth Towns. Freshman Reggie Davis, already part of the main rotation, also moved up the pecking order.
But Murray ended up relying more on veterans and the short passing game in the loss to Missouri. Tailback Brendan Douglas ended up leading the team with six catches, while fellow tailback J.J. Green had five. the two most established receivers, Chris Conley and Rantavious Wooten, combined for nine catches.
But Davis, Tibbs and Erdman only had one catch apiece, and Towns had none. Towns was targeted several times.
Murray felt there could have and should have been a few more passes thrown to the newer receivers, blaming himself for not putting enough trust in them.
"I felt like if I had trusted it a little bit more, trusted in my receiver and let it rip, that could have been a bigger play than it was," Murray said. "But overall we worked extremely hard last week to make sure we were on the same timing with all of our guys."
The issue shouldn't be overblown: Murray estimates it was less than five plays in which he may have hesitated rather than heave it.
"It was a little uncertainty, and that happens. We've just gotta keep working at it," Murray said, then added about the new receivers: "Go back and watch the film, they played great. There wasn't any missed assignments when it comes to routes. They got open. And when I did hit those guys they made plays with the ball."
Murray became renowned this offseason for working with his receivers. The problem is that three of those receivers are now out, with only Bennett due to return this season. So while Tibbs, Erdman, Towns and even Davis have been around, up until last week they were getting most of their reps with Hutson Mason and the other backups.
"All summer long in camp you want to work with as many guys as you can. But Hutson has to get reps. I don't want to throw a million balls in practice or my arm would be dead, so you have to really focus in on guys that you know are gonna be playing in the game," Murray said. "But things happen, injuries happen, it happens to every team in the country, and you have to adjust, you have to make changes and then you have to adapt. ...
"I think it's only going to get better and better every week, the better our timing gets, the more comfortable we get with each other."
Collin Barber's short punts against Missouri have left him in a competition this week. Barber and senior walk-on Adam Erickson will compete to be the main punter, with Richt saying it could go all the way up through warmups.
Erickson is already the team's short-yardage, or "pooch" punter. But he replaced Barber in regular punting situations against Missouri, doing a lot better: Two punts for 81 yards, while Barber's two punts only went for 32.
Barber, to be fair, was coming off a Tennessee game in which he suffered a concussion, and had not practiced much. Both of his punts against Missouri also featured low snaps.
Rumph set for debut
Junior college transfer Jonathan Rumph has been with the team for nearly 10 months now, and is finally on track to see the field. The 6-foot-5 receiver has missed the first six games with a hamstring injury, first suffered in the preseason and then aggravated it a few weeks ago.
Richt said he didn't think there was any doubt that Rumph will play Saturday at Vanderbilt, but sought to tamp down expectation.
"He's really not played for us yet. We've gotta see by the end of the week how comfortable he is and how comfortable we are with what he knows," Richt said. "We're not sure how many plays he'll get. But we want to get him going. We need him to come through."
Redshirt sought for Fluker
Prior to the season, Shaquille Fluker was expected to be a key member of the secondary, perhaps even a starting safety. But that's not going to happen.
The team plans to seek a redshirt for Fluker, who has been slowed by some injuries and an unspecified illness. Fluker is listed as having played against North Texas, so it would have to be a medical redshirt.
"You get to the point where you decide who you're going with, so to speak, and he just was't ready at that time," Richt said. "I know he had some injuries somewhere along the way, and by the time we settled on who was in there making the plays and getting the reps, he wasn't one of them. We're going to redshirt him."
Kentucky returns tickets
Kentucky returned about 500 tickets out of its allotment for the Nov. 23 game, and UGA will be putting those up for sale to the public. The cost is $50, and can be purchased online through the school or by calling the ticket office.
Lynch on his hurdle
It was overlooked because Georgia went on to lose, but tight end Arthur Lynch had a pretty athletic hurdle of a Missouri player on Saturday.
"Oh, that was awesome. I didn't think he could get that high. I don't think anyone did," Murray said.
Lynch, however, wasn't bragging about it very much. He granted it was pretty cool, and someone tweeted him a picture of the leap, but given the team lost it dampened his enthusiasm for looking at it.
"Now I'm probably gonna have to keep that stored away until my kids don't believe me that I can do that," Lynch said.
It's in the genes: Lynch's two sisters were college hurdlers at Boston College and Dartmouth. They made fun of Lynch every time they saw him make a failed attempt at a hurdle in a game.
"But I remember a few times when they hit their knees and face-plant they were all worried about prom pictures," Lynch said. "So there's definitely some crossfire there. But they were definitely the athletic ones in the family."