ATHENS, Ga. -- Although five of Georgia’s defensive starters were limited by injuries in Wednesday’s practice and two more -- Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree -- might still be suspended, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic is no time to sit the regulars.
“In the NFL, you get paid. In college, you get to play,” Richt said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think they all want to play. We want to be careful, no matter who we’re playing, with these guys. But I think they all want to play.”
Richt said he believes all five starters -- outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin/shoulder), nose guard John Jenkins (shoulder), defensive end Cornelius Washington (hamstring) and cornerbacks Malcolm Mitchell (ankle/shoulder) and Damian Swann (knee) -- should be physically able to play Saturday against the Owls (1-1).
Florida Atlantic, by the way, is rated No. 122 out of 124 teams in the Massey Rankings -- one of the components in the BCS computer ranking formula. Georgia (2-0) is No. 8 according to Massey, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was even more adamant that the Bulldogs can’t expect to take it easy on Saturday. Especially after watching a fellow highly ranked SEC team, Arkansas, fall as a heavy favorite against Louisiana-Monroe last weekend.
“I don’t know why you’d ask that question to be honest because each week you’ve got to get better,” Grantham said Tuesday when a reporter asked about sitting starters against FAU with SEC games against Vanderbilt and Tennessee ahead. “If we don’t get better today, we’re not going to get better tomorrow, so each day we’re going to work to get better because each game you have to play better than you did the last game. I don’t care who you’re playing. I’m sure Arkansas didn’t think that they were going to get beat by Monroe and they did and you don’t take anyone for granted.
“But the big thing is is you work to get better. It’s not always about the team you’re playing as much as it’s about you getting better. We’re going to push to get work and to play better because we’ve got a lot of football left.”
Morgan’s explanation: Freshman place-kicker Marshall Morgan had a simple explanation for why he could hit field goals of 52 and 41 yards last Saturday against Missouri, but miss an extra point and bank another one in off the upright.
“Kicking’s more mental than physical,” he said, admitting that he was better focused before hitting the long field goals than when he lined up for chip-shot extra points.
“Mentally, I feel like with a 52-yarder, you’re a lot more focused and a lot more compelled to try to make it,” Morgan said. “The extra point, in your mind, you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s a short kick.’ Next thing you know, you just mess it up.”
The freshman said he and the special teams units have worked this week to make both the PATs and field goals, adding that their efficiency continues to improve.
“There’s no secret to it,” he said. “We’ve been working on it all week. Every day we’ve been working on field goals and it’s been looking a lot better -- especially on extra points and long ones, mid range, all of it.”
Mitchell’s role: Mitchell would have already contributed on offense by now, Richt said, if not for the sprained ankle that kept him from playing in the opener against Buffalo.
Mitchell made his debut at cornerback last week against Missouri and could move into his expected two-way role this weekend against FAU.
“I don’t want to use him on offense until I know he’s really feeling great,” Richt said of Mitchell, who was a Freshman All-SEC honoree at receiver last season. “But he may play some offense this game. I’d like to see a couple snaps, anyway.”
Redshirting freshmen: Thirteen of Georgia’s 17 signees have already played this season. Richt said his coaching staff has nearly made the decision on whether to redshirt the others -- quarterback Faton Bauta, offensive lineman Greg Pyke, receiver Blake Tibbs and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor.
Tibbs is the remaining freshman with the best chance to play this season, Richt said.
“There’s one guy that hasn’t played a snap yet, but before it’s over, he might. He might, he might not. You’ve got Tibbs who’s kind of a little bit similar to Chris Conley last year,” Richt said of Conley, who didn’t play until Week 4 last year and finished the season with 16 catches for 288 yards.
“The first game or two we were thinking we might redshirt [Conley] and a couple things happened so we were like, ‘We’re not going to make it through the season without playing this kid,’ and we did play him and we’re glad we did. He made a lot of plays for us. So he’s an example of a guy that could end up getting work.”