published Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Georgia football team turning to new faces offensively

University of Georgia NCAA college football coach Mark Richt speaks to members of the media  in Athens, Ga., in this file photo.
University of Georgia NCAA college football coach Mark Richt speaks to members of the media in Athens, Ga., in this file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Quarterback Aaron Murray, tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett headlined the offensive weaponry Georgia possessed as it entered the 2013 college football season.

The Bulldogs will reach the midway mark of the regular season Saturday afternoon when Missouri visits, and only Murray of that quintet is scheduled to play. Marshall and Mitchell are out for the season with ACL injuries, while Bennett is out with a torn meniscus and Gurley is doubtful for Saturday, according to coach Mark Richt, with an ankle sprain.

"I think we're fine, and I think everybody is ready to go to battle again," Richt said Tuesday. "Football is a physical game, and we know there are injuries. Other teams have injuries. Some guys are very excited about the opportunity to make more of a contribution, and some guys are excited about making their phase of the game stronger to help where we're wounded to a certain degree.

"I think everybody's excited about the challenge of it all."

Georgia lost Mitchell in the season-opening loss at Clemson and lost Marshall in last week's overtime triumph at Tennessee. Gurley was injured in the victory over LSU two weeks ago, and Bennett went down against the Volunteers and had his knee scoped Tuesday.

Another receiver who was a relative unknown before recently providing a sizable impact, Justin Scott-Wesley, tore his ACL against Tennessee and underwent surgery Tuesday morning.

"The minute practice is over, I'm headed straight to the hospital to spend time with him," backup tight end Jay Rome said. "This has definitely hit us emotionally, but what has happened has happened and there is nothing we can do about it now."

Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas are Georgia's top two tailbacks this week if Gurley can't play, with Chris Conley, Rhett McGowan, Rantavious Wooten, Reggie Davis and Kenneth Towns leading the receivers. Rome and starting tight end Arthur Lynch are hoping their position can contribute more.

Lynch has 11 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns this season, while the injury-plagued Rome has three receptions for 43 yards.

"Hopefully we're going to implement more tight ends with all the guys going out," Rome said. "The tight end position has become a veteran position on this team over the last year, and I think we're a position that can step up and prove that Georgia hasn't lost anything just because a couple of guys went down."

Said Lynch: "We're in a lot better shape than a lot of people are giving us credit for. They just see the big names that went down."

A Swann dive?

Damian Swann was expected to aid Georgia's youthful secondary, but the junior cornerback is having some issues of his own. Swann has 18 tackles through five games and has yet to make an interception after snatching a team-high four last season.

"Damian, I would say, is struggling right now," Richt said. "He has missed some tackles in the open field, and he has gotten beat on some coverages that have been tough on him. There have been some things that he has struggled with, but he has made plays for us as well.

"I think if you asked him, he would tell you that he wants to perform better and he's working towards that."

Odds and ends

Saturday will mark the 84th anniversary of the first game at Sanford Stadium, when fans purchased $3 tickets to watch Georgia defeat Yale 15-0. ... Junior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson leads the SEC with 52 tackles in five games, and he is coming off a career-best 15 tackles at Tennessee. ... Georgia's 15-game home winning streak is the third-longest in program history, trailing the 24 in a row the Bulldogs won from 1980 to '83 and the 17 straight from 2001 to '04.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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