Bulldogs prepare to play without Gurley, Matthews

Todd Gurley was back on the practice field with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. He even “changed direction a little” and caught some passes, according to coach Mark Richt.

But Richt didn’t sound very encouraging as far as whether Georgia’s star tailback has a chance to play against Vanderbilt on Saturday.

“He was out there moving around and changing direction a little bit, catching a couple of balls here and there, but not at a tempo that would make you feel like he’ll have a chance,” Richt said. “If we played tomorrow he wouldn’t play, I know that. … We’re preparing to play without him.”

More likely, the Bulldogs’ leading rusher will miss his third game in a row since spraining his left ankle early in the LSU game. Georgia also is without tailback Keith Marshall, who was lost for the season to a knee injury in the Tennessee game two weeks ago.

That means either Brendan Douglas or J.J. Green will get the start against the Commodores. The freshman duo has combined for 415 yards rushing, including 157 as the primary backs Saturday against Missouri.

Richt also indicated that it’s doubtful starting safety Tray Matthews will make it on the field Saturday. Matthews did not practice again Wednesday because of a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the past two weeks. The freshman started the first four games of the season.

“We’ve got other people coming in and playing pretty good in that spot,” Richt said. “Obviously we’d like to have him back and have him playing, not only on defense but some special teams as well. … But we’ve just got to be careful with that hamstring.”

New starter: For the first time in five weeks and the second time this season, John Theus will start at right tackle.

The sophomore earned the start this week after senior Kolton Houston got the nod in the five of the Bulldogs’ six games this season. The move comes after Houston had a tough game against Missouri on Saturday.

“Theus played well,” Richt said of that game. “He practiced well last week, and he played well last week. He deserves a chance to start.”

Theus started all 14 games at right tackle as a freshman last season. But he was beaten out by Houston in preseason camp. Houston had to sit out his first three years at Georgia because of an NCAA suspension for having a banned steroid in his system. That suspension was lifted when the level dissipated to permissible levels in late July.

Rumph gets attention: Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was impressed to hear that Jonathan Rumph may get some action at wide receiver for Georgia this weekend. Richt, however, remains skeptical about how much the junior college transfer might contribute this weekend.

Franklin brought up Rumph’s name on the SEC coaches teleconference call Wednesday. “They signed one of the top junior college players in the country in Jonathan Rumph, a wide receiver who’s going to play this week, from what I’m hearing and seeing.”

But Rumph has been unable to play since suffering a hamstring injury in preseason camp. And Richt wasn’t sure how much of a difference-maker the 6-foot-5, 210-pound playmaker might be Saturday.

“He hasn’t played all year,” Richt said Wednesday. “He hasn’t practiced in a long time before this week. He’s still getting comfortable with the system. So to think he’ll make a huge impact, it’d be hard to predict that. But hopefully he’ll get in the game and get some opportunities to make plays.”

Like I’ve said for a lot of years, our system has very few passes that are earmarked for just one guy. So if he’s in the game and there’s a pass called, he’s one of many who might be in a progression, so he could easily get the ball thrown to him as anybody else.”

Injury updates: There were two new injuries on Wednesday's injury report. Defensive lineman Toby Johnson, who has seen his playing time increase dramatically in recent weeks, sat out practice with a left knee injury. Backup offensive lineman Xzavier Ward missed the workout with a right knee injury. No other information was immediately available.

Also sitting out with “lumbar strains” were linebackers Paris Bostick and Shaun McGee. Starting inside linebacker Ramik Wilson return to practice after missing the first two workouts of the week with a bruised knee.

Early call: Richt acknowledged he's not a fan of early games. The wake-up call for Georgia's players Saturday will be at 6:30 a.m. The game is scheduled for a noon kickoff, which is 11 a.m. local time. "We've got to wake up and get it going, be alert, active and be ready to go," Richt said.