ATHENS, Ga. -- Count Mark Richt among those who are curious about how Georgia’s kicking situation will shake out in Saturday’s opener against Buffalo.
The Bulldogs’ head coach said after Wednesday’s practice that freshman kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber’s readiness to perform is what he will be most interested to evaluate this weekend.
“Kickers and punters,” Richt said, “I’m very interested to see how that goes.”
“It’s going to be fun to watch our backs,” he said. “Those would probably be the top two right now for me.”
But it’s the kicking positions -- place+kicker in particular -- that he seems to be most curious about. Morgan is listed as the starter ahead of Jamie Lindley, but Richt has maintained recently that both players could play against Buffalo.
Lindley might even handle the kickoff duties, although Richt had not spoken to assistant Kirk Olivadotti to nail down which player would open the game in that position. However, he said he does not expect that they would rotate as Blair Walsh and Brandon Bogotay did at points last season.
“I don’t think that will be the plan going in, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see both of them kick off,” Richt said.
Defending Oliver: Buffalo junior tailback Branden Oliver has made multiple preseason watch lists after rushing for a school-record 1,395 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago, so containing him will be job one for Georgia’s defense.
“We’ve been watching them quite a bit,” nose guard John Jenkins said. “Their running back is real good. I don’t know about pretty good, he’s real good and he’s real explosive.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he has been impressed with the Bulls’ ability to generate a productive running game with Oliver operating behind an experienced offensive line.
“I think he’s a really good downhill guy. He’s sometimes hard to find,” Grantham said of the 5-foot-8 Oliver. “They’ve got some veteran offensive linemen up there, so they do a good job of working together and creating seams for him. And he’s got a downhill burst, he’s got some quickness, he can make the first guy miss and he’s had some double-digit runs and he’s a guy that can take it to the house if you don’t leverage the ball.
“So we’ve got to understand where he’s at and where our fits are and be ready to play.”
Injury update: Defensive end Cornelius Washington (neck) and nose guard Kwame Geathers (shoulder) were not listed on Wednesday’s injury update and Richt said he expects both players to be available against Buffalo.
He was not as sure about tight end Jay Rome (hamstring), who was listed as limited on the injury report.
“You’ve just got to see how everybody’s feeling,” Richt said. “It is a while, still, before the game. But I think his may end up being a game day thing, just see how he’s doing. Or he may tomorrow be great.”
Otherwise, Richt said he would not rule out any scholarship player for the Buffalo game except offensive lineman Hunter Long, who broke his foot on Aug. 10.
He expressed relief that Georgia has not dealt with many injuries, particularly the nagging muscle pulls that often plagued the Bulldogs in previous camps, and credited associate strength and conditioning director Sherman Armstrong for preparing the team for camp during summer workouts.
“I’ll say this, most camps to this point, we’ve had a lot less of that kind of thing,” Richt said. “It probably does have a lot to do with what we did in our offseason and I would think Coach Armstrong would be one to credit along with the guys’ willingness to get in there and do it and be coached.”
Receiver plans: Georgia’s coaches seem to be on the fence as to whether receiver Blake Tibbs will play this season, as he’s one of the few true freshmen who are not listed on the Bulldogs’ depth chart for the Buffalo game.
Senior receiver Tavarres King said it’s a matter of Tibbs learning how to function in the Bulldogs’ offensive scheme.
“Tibbs is coming along well,” King said. “He’s just got to learn what to do. He’s a very good athlete, very good receiver and I feel like if he understands the playbook and the concepts of what we’re trying to do with our offense, he’ll be in that bunch [of contributors].”
A teammate King is excited about in the near term is fellow senior Marlon Brown, who enters the season after a productive preseason following an injury-riddled 2011.
“The dude is balling, man, really. He’s just extremely consistent,” King said. “He’s doing everything that’s asked of him -- running game, passing game, he’s attacking the ball when it’s in the air. He just looks like a well-rounded receiver right now. I say it all the time, but he continues to progress and get better. It’s crazy the steps and the strides that he’s made as a receiver.”