Cloudiness clearing on Georgia's tailback situation

ATHENS — What Georgia’s tailback situation actually is entering Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech depends largely on whom one asks.

When the subject was broached with Georgia coach Mark Richt at his weekly news conference early Tuesday afternoon, his response was one of doom and gloom.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Richt said when asked what Saturday’s rotation might look like. “We have to sort through it. It’s just not cut-and-dry. I don’t know who is going to start. I don’t even know who’s going to play 100 percent. But we’re working our way through it.”

At the time, Richt was labeling the status of starting tailback Isaiah Crowell (ankle) as questionable and that of No. 2 tailback Carlton Thomas, who missed the Kentucky game because of suspension, as undetermined.

Meanwhile, No. 3 tailback Richard Samuel (ankle) remains sidelined at least another week and Nos. 4 and 5 tailbacks Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome are dealing with ball-security issues.

“I don’t know what I’ll announce,” Richt said with regard to the tailback rotation. “Right this second I do not know exactly how it’s going to come out.”

However, asked about tailbacks after Tuesday’s practice, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo sounded much more upbeat.

As for Crowell, the Bulldogs’ leading rusher, Bobo said: “I expect him to play. It’s Game 12; it’s a long season. Sometimes guys are ready to go at the beginning of the week, but I expect him to be ready by Saturday.”

As for Thomas, who is coming off his third one-game suspension of the season, Bobo said: “Carlton’s playing. ... He’s going to be a big difference. He’s a guy who’s got experience, and he’s played well for us this season. He’s proven he can go out there and get it done. ... He’s performed in well in big games. He’s a big factor in our offense and does a great job in blitz protection.”

As for Harton’s and Malcome’s fumbling issues: “A big emphasis this week has been securing the football. ... Theirs were more fundamental things. There are going to be some times you get hit and the ball is just going to come out. But they weren’t securing it properly and tightly against their body was the main thing.”

Despite its many issues at tailback, Georgia has managed to run the ball fairly effectively throughout. The Bulldogs are fourth among SEC teams in rushing at 185.4 yards per game, and they’ve had three different players bust the 100-yard barrier.

That will be especially important against the ball-hogging Yellow Jackets.

“We always like to run the football,” Richt said. “But you have to have backs who can do it and some backs who are willing to hang on to the football in the process. The thing about this game is every possession really is pretty crucial.”

Honoring Munson

Richt said the Bulldogs’ will honor the memory of legendary play-by-play announcer Larry Munson with a decal for their helmets.

“It wasn’t quite what we were wanting, but it will be something that will be very recognizable,” Richt said.

Richt wasn’t sure what effect Munson’s passing this week might have on Georgia’s players. The week Erk Russell passed in 2006 the Bulldogs shut out South Carolina 18-0.

“Some of the guys didn’t know a whole lot about Larry just by virtue of the fact that they’re young and may not have been a Bulldog fan before they came to Georgia,” Richt said. “But they are very well aware of who he is now. We talked a little bit about him after practice yesterday just to make sure everybody knew who he was and what he meant to Georgia football.”

Etc.

Junior Jarvis Jones was named a finalist for the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker Tuesday. Jones leads the SEC in sacks with 12.5 (No. 2 nationally) and tackles for loss with 18.5 (sixth) ... Captains for Saturday’s game are Jones, center Ben Jones, defensive end Abry Jones and punter Drew Butler. ... Cornerback Jordan Love (broken hand) was in a non-contact jersey Tuesday, but was able to practice full speed and defend receivers in a protective cast.