ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt played it coy when asked about safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree being listed atop the depth chart for the Bulldogs’ game against Buffalo on Saturday.
“We’ll just have to wait and see. Time will tell,” Richt said about what to expect from the two players Saturday, provoking uncomfortable laughter from the media members gathered in the room. “I’m glad we can laugh about that.”
Although Richt has never acknowledged a punishment for either player, suspension rumors have surrounded Rambo and Ogletree since the spring, when both players reportedly failed drug tests.
While the coaching staff seems to be employing gamesmanship for the following week’s game at Missouri, multiple Georgia players have conceded that they don’t expect some of their teammates to be available against Buffalo.
One of them, senior linebacker Christian Robinson, pointed to the Bulldogs’ 11 different starting lineups in 2011 as a reason why they should be better able to function without the two defensive stars.
“Yeah, we have some really good players that might not be there, but we’re going to put guys in spots and make plays,” Robinson said. “We can still be as dominant as we want to be. I’m excited to see how those different changes play out, but we can get it done.”
First-time starters: Georgia’s Buffalo depth chart lists six first-time starters, including true freshman right tackle John Theus, sophomore center David Andrews and redshirt freshman fullback Merritt Hall on offense, kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber.
Sophomore outside linebacker Ramik Wilson is the only rookie starter listed on defense unless you count cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, who started nine games last season as a freshman receiver. But Wilson intrigues the coaching staff because of the versatility he provides by being able to play either inside or outside linebacker.
“He’s worked hard, he’s developed his skills and he’ll be a good player for us there,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I look forward to watching him play on Saturday. He’s earned it.”
Eleven of Georgia’s 16 true freshmen are listed on the depth chart. Theus, Morgan and Barber are joined by eight reserves: right guard Greg Pyke, fullback Quayvon Hicks, tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (listed as co-No. 2 tailbacks behind Ken Malcome), tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Josh Dawson, and strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. Junior college transfer Mark Beard is listed as the second-team left tackle behind Kenarious Gates.
Freshman kickers: Richt believes Morgan and Barber have the ability to become dependable college kickers. But are they ready for their first outing before 92,000 fans? Even Richt doesn’t know.
“[Morgan has] got a strong enough leg and he’s had enough success in his high school career to do well, and I think in time he’s going to do extremely well,” Richt said. “But what will he do the first game, what will he do the first kick? I don’t know. It will be interesting to see. And of course Collin’s kind of in the same boat as a true freshman punter, as well.”
But it’s up to the freshmen for now, and teammates are also intrigued as to whether they can perform effectively right away.
“I want to see if they can show up in a game,” Robinson said. “They’ve done a great job in practice. They have great kicking ability. It’s a little different when you go out there and it’s not just your teammates watching who have seen you kick every day. There’s people seeing if you’re going to live up to the hype and I think they can.”
Hitting Hall: Robinson admitted that many of Georgia’s defensive players consider Hall a pest because of his habit of giving 100 percent on every play. The 6-foot-2 Robinson said the 5-11 Hall is just the right size to make meeting him in the hole inconvenient.
“He’s just the perfect height where you can’t get underneath him when he’s running full speed,” Robinson said. “So imagine not being ready to get hit and some guys will just hit you underneath your chin like, ‘Come on man, just slow down a little bit.’ I think in the past we’ve had really big fullbacks where everybody was like, ‘Oh I don’t want to get hit by that guy.’ Well he’s not that big, but I don’t want to get hit by him either.”
Robinson said he’s happy that the season has arrived so linebackers on other teams can share the unpleasantness.
“When he gets in, there’s going to be a linebacker that’s not going to be ready to get hit and he’ll get smacked in the chin,” he laughed.
Murray’s mistake: At Tuesday’s press luncheon, quarterback Aaron Murray laughed off his earlier inability to identify Buffalo’s nickname (the Bulls), saying he knew it but drew a blank when put on the spot.
Asked whether he knew the nickname for next week’s opponent, SEC newcomer Missouri, Murray played along.
“We’ll figure that out next week,” Murray laughed. “That’s next week’s homework.”
He then revealed that he knew that Missouri's team is, in fact, known as the Tigers.
Tight end Jay Rome was again listed as limited on the team’s injury report after suffering a hamstring strain last week in practice.