ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt remains hopeful that right tackle John Theus will be able to return this Saturday from the sprained ankle that knocked him out of last weekend’s Buffalo game. Because if Theus is unable to go, Richt’s Georgia club has not yet established a contingency plan.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I really don’t,” Richt said after Wednesday’s practice.
Theus and fellow offensive lineman Watts Dantzler, who also sprained his left ankle against Buffalo, returned to practice in non-contact jerseys on Wednesday. While working on the side with a trainer during the practice periods that were open to the media, Theus was able to move more fluidly than Dantzler, who limped noticeably.
Richt said both players were able to practice a bit Wednesday, but there was no need to force the issue with two more days remaining for their injuries to heal before Saturday’s key game at SEC newcomer Missouri.
“They didn’t go very long, but they practiced,” Richt said. “We don’t want Theus getting anything more than scout team work anyway.”
The Bulldogs’ likely first option behind Theus might be Austin Long, who began working at right tackle on Tuesday while also repping at left and right guard.
Once one of Georgia’s most highly recruited offensive linemen, Long dealt with an array of injuries over the last three years without ever starting a game. He said the opportunity to start or play a key role against Missouri is exciting after years of frustration.
“That would be a big deal. I think I’d be ready for it,” Long said. “I’ve been waiting three years to do it, so I think to start that game would be pretty awesome.”
Redshirt freshman Xzavier Ward replaced Theus at right tackle during the Buffalo game, although Richt said he is still not fully healthy after missing last season while recovering from knee surgery.
“I would say he’s probably not full speed, but when the ball’s snapped, he goes and he seems to be progressing,” Richt said. “I don’t know if he’s hardly missed a rep the entire camp, so that’s very encouraging. But I don’t know if he’s ready to play a game like this.”
Richt said junior college Mark Beard could be another option at right tackle if Theus and Dantzler are unable to go, but Beard said after Wednesday’s practice that he has practiced only at left tackle lately. He played left tackle on Georgia’s last two drives, blocked on all field goal and extra point plays and said he welcomes the opportunity to play a greater role on the line if needed.
“I feel pretty good,” Beard said. “You’ve got to always be ready when your number’s called.”
Injury update: Sophomore cornerback Malcolm Mitchell also practiced in a non-contact jersey on Wednesday after missing the Buffalo game with a sprained ankle. He appeared to run and cut well during drills and Richt said he was encouraged that Mitchell will be available against Missouri.
“I’m not certain that he’s full speed, but it’s Wednesday,” said Richt, who seemed nearly certain that Mitchell will be on Georgia’s travel roster this weekend. “I’m encouraged. We have a couple more days to go yet to see. But he got scout work.”
Senior receiver Marlon Brown said he is back at 100 percent after missing the Buffalo game with a hamstring strain. He has not been listed on the injury report at all this week and is prepared to contribute against Missouri.
“I was kind of disappointed at the beginning of last week, but I got my mind refocused and just tried to get back on the field,” Brown said. “I’m back, so I’m pretty excited.”
Starting tailback Ken Malcome, who left the Buffalo game with a left hand injury, held a bag of ice on his swollen hand during interviews after Wednesday’s practice, but Richt said the sophomore should still be able to carry the ball without issue.
“Historically those guys are used to holding it in either hand, but there’s usually a dominant side,” Richt said. “But he’s had enough reps where even if he held it in one side, I’d feel comfortable with him playing.”
Weighty issue: Richt made mention on his radio show earlier this week that senior receiver Tavarres King had gained a substantial amount of muscle since he arrived on campus as a skinny freshman in 2008.
King confirmed Richt’s story, saying time in the weight room and eating properly has helped him reach 200 pounds after arriving at a measly 158.
“That’s right on it,” King said of Richt’s recollection. “I stepped on the scale in that old weight room weighing 158. I didn’t even want to get on it I was so little. But they made me get on it and I weighed 158.”
Revenge on the ref: In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment during the Buffalo game, tight end Arthur Lynch accidentally collided with a sideline official while walking onto the field following a change of possession.
Neither Lynch nor the official saw the other before the ref ran directly into Lynch’s facemask before dropping to the ground in a heap.
“He’s a tough son of a gun because he just went down and I was like, ‘Oof,’ ” said Lynch, who said he heard the official briefly left the game to receive stitches in his head. “Hopefully he didn’t realize it was me, but I think he did. I was like, ‘Don’t throw a flag on me.’ ”
Luckily for Lynch, he was not flagged for any mysterious penalties afterward and everyone could laugh about it after the fact.
“It was an unexpected turn of events, but luckily we got out of there unscathed,” Lynch said.