Injury bug bites Bulldogs’ offense again

The injury bug has bitten the Bulldogs again on offense.

Junior Chris Conley, Georgia’s leading receiver, sprained his right ankle in practice and his status for Wednesday’s Gator Bowl matchup against Nebraska is in question. Conley injured the ankle while competing for a pass in Friday’s practice. He was unable to practice Saturday morning and spent time getting treatment instead.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to come around,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Chris is very, very tough. He can play through a little pain. I think even if he’s 80 or 85 percent, I think he’d play and play well.”

It was the same ankle that Conley injured Oct. 19 on the last play of a loss at Vanderbilt. Conley was unable to participate in the next two games, against Florida and Appalachian State, and returned in a limited capacity Nov. 16 against Auburn. He had two catches for 24 yards in that game.

Despite missing that time, the 6-foot-3, 206-pound junior leads the Bulldogs in receptions (42) and receiving yardage (605) and has four touchdown catches. He had a huge game against Nebraska last season in the Capital One Bowl, with 136 yards and two touchdowns that included an 87-yarder.

Conley’s absence likely would mean an increased presence in the game plan for seniors Rantavious Wooten and Rhett McGowan. Junior Michael Bennett starts at split end opposite Conley. Freshman Reggie Davis and junior Jonathon Rumph also are part of the Bulldogs’ regular receiver rotation.

Meanwhile, pass defense is one of Nebraska’s strong suits. The Cornhuskers rank fourth in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed at 205 per game — just 166.6 in conference play — and feature a veteran secondary. They’re led by senior cornerback Ciante Evans, who has four interceptions and five pass breakups, and they start four seniors and a junior in their nickel package.

No early exits: It appears that all of the Bulldogs' draft-eligible underclassmen will return next season, and that has seldom been the case during the Richt era. Georgia has put more players in the NFL than any other SEC team during his tenure. Many of those have been juniors, including first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree last year.

Linebacker Ramik Wilson, probably the most viable candidate on this season’s team, made his return for his senior season official before practice Saturday.

“Yeah, I’m staying; I’m coming back,” said Wilson, who leads the SEC with 128 tackles. “… What I really need is to stay in school and get better on the field.”

Wilson, a 6-foot-2, 232-pound junior, said he discussed the possibility with his parents. Wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Conley, defensive end Ray Drew, linebacker Amarlo Herrera and cornerback Damian Swann also have indicated they plan to return.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” Richt said. “It’s happened before where you kind of get surprised by somebody. But if somebody did go I’d be surprised.”

Another physical practice: The Bulldogs' practiced for a second consecutive day in full pads and have suited up for eight of the nine bowl practices they've held. There is one primary reason for all the contact — Ameer Abdullah.

Nebraska’s star running back is a tough one to bring down. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior leads the Big Ten with 1,568 yards rushing — fifth most in school history — and averages 6.2 yards per carry. The Cornhuskers average 221.7 yards rushing per game.

“They’re a really good running football team, and Abdullah is a great back,” Richt said. “Just watching his film, like I was telling the guys yesterday, you can’t knock down a good back. You’ve got to tackle him; you’ve got to wrap him up. That’s why we were tackling yesterday and tackling today, just to get the sensation of wrapping a guy up and getting him on the ground.”

Out and about: It certainly wasn't ideal conditions — Saturday's high was 62 and it rained most of the day — but the Bulldogs took an afternoon trip to Ponte Vedra for a beach party. That followed Friday night's outing at Jacksonville's Latitude 30, a bowling, gaming and entertainment business, and some free time in the city. Many of the players ended up at The Landing, which is located just down the street from the team hotel.

“It’s been fun,” senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. “It’s a nice city. And I got to see my big brother yesterday, Abry Jones, so I was happy about that. He looked out for me when he was here.”

Jones is a rookie defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars.