ATHENS, Ga. (AP) – Georgia coach Mark Richt expects star tailback Todd Gurley’s indefinite suspension to stay in place when his 10th-ranked Bulldogs visit Arkansas on Saturday.
Richt said on his Twitter account early Thursday that he will ”try to clear up Todd’s status” and ”will let you know if his status changes.” He added that he’s ”not anticipating it to change this week.”
Gurley was suspended last week, less than 48 hours before his team beat Missouri 34-0. Freshman Nick Chubb, who rushed 38 times for 143 yards against the Tigers, continues to get the bulk of the work with the starters. As long as Gurley is suspended, Chubb will remain the go-to guy.
“I think our guys really understand that football is a team game,” Richt said. “The best chance we have is for everybody to take care of their responsibilities.”
The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 SEC) don’t have a lot of depth at running back if Gurley is on the sideline. Richt was initially hopeful that Keith Marshall would be able to play after missing the last three games with knee and ankle injuries, but the coach wasn’t as optimistic after watching him practice Monday.
“He’s getting some work, but my best guess is that he probably won’t be ready by the time we play,” Richt said.
Freshman running back Sony Michel, out with a shoulder injury, definitely won’t play against the Razorbacks (3-3, 0-3).
With Brendan Douglas again looking like the only experienced backup behind Chubb, Georgia moved J.J. Green back to offense. He was the team’s second-leading rusher in 2013, but had been playing defensive back this season.
“It’s good that we had a guy with a little bit experience who played running back last year that’s going to be able to fill in for us and help out at that position,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, adding the move will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. “We’ve still got Keith banged up and Sony banged up. A lot will depend on those two guys.”
This game features the top rushing teams in the SEC, with Arkansas leading the way at 278.7 yards per game – 10th in the FBS – and Georgia averaging 275.7.
The Razorbacks are the only team in the nation with two running backs to gain 500-plus yards. Sophomore Alex Collins ranks fourth in the SEC with 634 yards and junior Jonathan Williams has 569. Gurley tops the conference with 773.
Arkansas will be playing a third consecutive game against an opponent ranked in the top 10 after losing 35-28 in overtime to then-No. 6 Texas A&M on Sept. 27 and 14-13 to then-No. 7 Alabama last Saturday.
Second-year coach Bret Bielema fought back tears following the school’s 15th straight defeat in SEC play.
What made the defeat particularly difficult for Bielema was that it was the second straight game in which Arkansas led in the fourth quarter before losing.
Despite the struggles, Bielema said he isn’t worried that the late-game woes will snowball into a lost year like it did in 2013 when Arkansas lost its final nine games.
“I think the negative effect comes from those that don’t live in our program,” Bielema said. “… I think that is a thing that from the outside world looking in maybe you get amazed at, but I am not concerned the least bit as a head coach.”