Starters Seeking Special Teams Play

ATHENS - Georgia is turning to more frontline players in hopes of fixing its porous kickoff coverage.

Coach Mark Richt said that coaches are challenging players who play more scrimmage downs to "get involved" in kickoff coverage.

"More than just the opening kickoff kind of deal," Richt said. "I think everybody can understand how crucial that that play is, so there will be other guys involved personnel-wise."

Georgia has given up a kickoff return touchdown each of the past two games against Florida and Vanderbilt. New Mexico State, Saturday's opponent, is ranked 12th in the nation on kickoff returns.

Cornerbacks Brandon Boykin, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith and linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ray Drew worked on the coverage unit during Tuesday afternoon's practice.

"We have to kick the ball in such a way that there is enough hang time to get everybody down there too," Richt said.

Blair Walsh will continue to handle kickoffs, Richt said.

"There was a period of time when Walsh was knocking them out of the end zone like three or four games like every time," junior Shawn Williams said. "I guess they got relaxed expecting him to knock it out of the end zone and they weren't quite running, busting it down field. That plays a part in it, too."

So do fundamentals, Richt said.

"Are you running as hard as you should be and are you avoiding blocks?" he said. "The main thing is are you avoiding blocks properly?"

Samuel injury `sad'

Richard Samuel will be a game captain Saturday, but he won't be playing.

The junior tailback is out a "minimum of four weeks," after undergoing ankle surgery on Tuesday, Richt said. That means he won't play again during the regular season.

"He may crutch on out there and flip the coin, I don't know," Richt said.

The injury happened at the end of the Bulldogs' 24-20 win over Florida Saturday in Jacksonville, a game in which Samuel rushed for a season-high 58 yards on a season-high 17 carries and scored the go-ahead score on a 4-yeard touchdown.

"Richard really had probably his finest performance in a really big game and for it to happen on the last play is just sad for him," Richt said of the junior who returned to tailback this summer after being moved to linebacker. "Now he's got to wait a little while to go do it ahead."

Comparing defenses

Williams is taking particular interest in the game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night.

"That's like a national championship game to me," he said.

Alabama leads the nation in total defense at 180.5 yards per game. LSU is No. 4 at 251.4. Georgia isn't far behind at No. 7 at 267.

"I just like to watch their defense and compare their defense to ours," Williams said. "People will be asking me do I feel our defense is in the category with theirs. I always say `Yeah.' My father always told me you never put another man ahead of you, you always think you're the best. That's the mentality you've got to have."

This and that

Malcolm Mitchell has been all but ruled out for Saturday with a hamstring injury. ""I'd say the chance of Malcolm playing this week will be close to zero," Richt said. …Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski national player of the week after his four sacks against Florida., …Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dmitroff was at practice Tuesday.

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