by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer
ATHENS—Coming off one of the greatest road victories of the Mark Richt era at Missouri and with a tough game at Arkansas looming, the Bulldogs’ head coach and his players were still fielding questions at Tuesday’s press conference/interviews—and not surprisingly—about the status of the best Bulldog player of them all, Todd Gurley.
“I’ll answer that like I’ve been answering any Gurley questions, and that’s to say, I really don’t know,” said Richt when asked if he thought Gurley would ever play again at Georgia.
Richt admitted that Gurley “got some reps yesterday” in practice after serving what has thus far been a one-game “indefinite suspension” as UGA investigates whether or not the star tailback was paid to sign memorabilia.
Gurley was seemingly not even needed in Saturday’s 34-0 thrashing over the 23rd-ranked Tigers, while his suspension—one every Bulldog hopes is lifted very soon—might have actually helped Georgia in a way.
“We couldn’t think about [Todd’s suspension], we just needed to bond together as a team and I’m really proud of how everybody bonded together,” tight end Jay Rome said. “We are not a one-man team, so we had a chip on our shoulder.”
Proving Georgia wasn’t a one-man team in Columbia, Mo., was Gurley’s backup, freshman Nick Chubb. Against Missouri, Chubb rushed for 143 yards on a whopping 38 carries; only legendary Herschel Walker (four times) and Verron Haynes (once) carried the ball more times in a single game in UGA history. Besides the status of Gurley, a better question might be if Chubb could carry the running load against Arkansas as he did only a few days ago.
“I asked [running backs coach] Bryan McClendon about [Chubb’s health/fitness after Missouri game] and he said that Sunday he came in and lifted, and ran, and did a little bit of yoga,” Richt said. “When he was done, he felt good. Yesterday at practice, he looked good.”
On the other side of the ball for this Saturday, the Bulldog defenders will be facing a massive offensive line—one which averages more than 328 pounds per starter, or even larger than the heaviest starting offensive line in the NFL (San Diego Chargers, 324.0 pounds per starter). The Razorbacks’ “Hogs” up front have paved the way for Arkansas to average an SEC-best 278.7 rushing yards per game, while allowing an SEC-low five sacks all season.
“We know they’re going to run the ball,” said defensive end Sterling Bailey. “It’s going to be a good test for us, a good challenge, to see how far we have come and how much we can improve.”
If the victory over Missouri is any evidence, Georgia’s defense has come a long way and has improved significantly since earlier this season. Still, on this day interviewing Richt and his players, the line of questioning seemed to primarily focus on the player who didn’t even play against the Tigers, while little else is apparently known about the player’s status going forward.
“I just don’t have any answer for that,” said Richt when asked if he anticipated hearing any news on Gurley’s situation. “If there’s something worthy of reporting, we’ll report it.”
Later, Hutson Mason was asked if he had any news on the Gurley situation. Mason, who claimed he doesn’t use social media, said everything he hears is from other players, who see it on social media. However, the quarterback curiously added, “The only thing I know is that the NCAA said that they are going to make a ruling this week on [Gurley’s] eligibility.”
When a member of the media said to Mason that the NCAA making a ruling this week was certainly news—it was the first time any of us had heard that before—and then asked if another player had informed him of that, Mason agreed, but then added, “I may be wrong… I don’t know.”