Sanks to get first shot at tailback this week

ATHENS, Ga. — Despite losing the Southeastern Conference's No. 3 rusher for at least one week, Georgia running backs coach <b>Tony Pierce</b> was not in a panic mode Monday.

Musa Smith, who leads No. 17 Georgia and ranks third in the SEC with 447 yards rushing, will miss Saturday's 12:30 p.m. home game against Kentucky with a chronic groin injury.

Smith's status for the following week's game against Florida is uncertain; Coach Mark Richt said Sunday that Smith may not be cleared until after the bye week which follows the Florida game.

Smith also leads Georgia with six touchdowns and is the team's fourth-leading receiver with 10 catches. In last Saturday's 30-14 win at Vanderbilt, Smith scored on first-quarter runs of 3 and 40 yards.

Pierce said Monday that senior Jasper Sanks, who had only four carries for 21 yards against Vanderbilt, "is probably the one who will get the nod (at tailback) this week.''

Sanks, in Columbus Monday for a funeral, is Georgia's second-leading rusher with 33 carries for 138 yards.

"Jasper has experience; he's been getting (first-team work) anyway,'' Pierce said.

When Georgia had three weeks between games in September, Sanks briefly rose to the top of the depth chart at tailback, partly because of Smith's lingering problem with the groin injury.

Smith's injury, first described by Richt as a hip-flexor injury, was examined again by team doctors Monday.

Georgia trainer Ron Courson said Smith suffers from a chronic inflammation.

Smith has tried to play with the injury since two-a-day drills in the summer.

"He's been hurting and just hasn't been saying much about it,'' Pierce said.

Smith aggravated the injury in the third quarter of the Vanderbilt game.

"(Smith) just needs some rest, so we're going to sit him down for a few days,'' Courson said, adding that the sophomore's status would be re-evaluated next week before his availability for the Florida game will be known.

Courson said Sanks and Kenny Bailey have fully recovered from shoulder injuries. Another option at tailback is starting fullback Verron Haynes, whose role as a runner and receiver has been greatly expanded the last two weeks.

Georgia also plans to give true freshman Mike Gilliam a long look this week.

Gilliam has not played and so is on course for a redshirt season.

"I'm anxious but at the same time I'd like to keep the redshirt,'' Gilliam said Monday. "Whatever helps the team, that's what I want.''

Gilliam said he did not know he was in the plans for this week until reading comments from Richt in the school newspaper, The Red and Black, Monday.

"I was blown away,'' Gilliam said.

Gilliam has been splitting practice time between the varsity and scout teams and will see more time with the varsity this week.

Pierce indicated that Gilliam may only be a backup plan.

"Jasper and Kenny and Verron can handle the load,'' Pierce said.

NOTES: The Oct. 27 Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville will be televised by CBS, with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, it was announced Monday. It will be Georgia's second appearance on CBS this year, following its win at Tennessee on Oct. 6.

Meanwhile, the only certainty about the Nov. 10 home game against Auburn is that the kickoff will be before 6 p.m. The Georgia athletics board has a policy against playing more than two home night games per season. Georgia already played home night games against South Carolina and Arkansas.

Charles Odum can be reached at CEOdum@aol.com.


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