ATHENS - There seemed to be a difference of opinion on just how much Todd Gurley, Georgia's top player when healthy, will be available this spring.
Head coach Mark Richt made it sound like he wanted to take it easy with Gurley, whose ankle still isn't healed.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, however, made it clear he wants to push Gurley in practice - using those exact words - because it's the only way to get him ready to fight through injuries during the season.
Gurley, meanwhile, didn't sound sure either way.
"It just depends on how I feel," Gurley said Wednesday. "I've still got what, two weeks until practice starts. So that'll give me time too."
Gurley missed three full games last year after spraining his ankle against LSU. Georgia proceeded to lose two of the next three games, with the other one going overtime. When he returned Georgia was a different offense, and a more potent one. But he still wasn't quite 100 percent, and admitted the ankle still bothers him.
So Richt, when discussing how he will handle Gurley during spring practice, sounded a cautious tone.
“I really don’t know what to expect from Todd in the spring," Richt said. "Let’s say that ankle was 100 percent on Jan. 30th and he’s been doing fine and doing all of the offseason things, we’d hook him up and play ball with everyone else, but right now he’s been less than full speed. My guess is that unless he’s completely healed by March 18, there will be some modification to what he’s doing.”
A couple hours later, Bobo sounded a much different note.
"I've already talked to Todd about how we're going to push him in practice, because I think that's the only way you can get better," Bobo said. "So we're gonna treat him like anybody else. I expect him to get better at the little things and give maximum effort."
It's not just that Bobo thinks Gurley can learn to deal with injuries better by practicing. The offensive coordinator also thinks it will help Gurley move into a bigger leadership role.
"I believe he's at a point in his career, third-year guy, where he's gotta step up and be a leader for this football team," Bobo said. "He's not a big talker, but he can be a leader by his actions and how he practices. So that'll be the big thing. What I'm looking for him this spring is his leadership on the field by how he practices and how he goes. He really doesn't have to say anything, because I know that's not his forte'. But I expect him to go out there and lead by example."
Gurley dealt with several injuries last year. He missed a big chunk of the Clemson game with a quad injury, which continued to bother him as the season went on. There was another minor injury, which Bobo and Gurley couldn't remember. The ankle was the major one, but Gurley now expects to have to deal with injuries, a hazzard of carrying the ball 20-30 times a game.
"If it wasn't for my ankle then something else would be hurting," Gurley said. "I mean football comes with injuries. In my freshman year I was hurting. It don't matter. I'm pretty sure it'll be something new next year. I'm just gonna have to play through it."
At one point Gurley was asked how much urgency he felt to get out there in spring practice. He hesitated a second, then offered a smile while saying: "I don't know. You better ask coach Richt that."
More injury updates
There is no such mystery about the status of other players who are coming off injuries.
Tight end Jay Rome, who missed the end of the season with a foot injury, will not play much, if at all.
Receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and tailback Keith Marshall, both recuperating from ACL injuries suffered during last October's game at Tennessee, will sit out spring practice.
But receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who tore his ACL a month earlier in the Clemson game, may be able to do some minor work.
"Malcolm has made a lot of progress," Richt said. "He may be able to run some routes and maybe do some pass skeletons somewhere along the way, but I doubt he’ll get anywhere near to a contact drill.”
And cornerback Reggie Wilkerson, who tore his ACL last summer and took a medical redshirt, could also play in some non-contact situations.
“From what I’ve seen, Matt-Drills and the offseason have really helped Reggie," Richt said.