Dawgs happy to be back home

ATHENS -- After the way LSU handled Georgia on its home field and again on a neutral field last year, the Bulldogs are happy to be at home this time.

This is the first time since 1999 that Georgia has played LSU in Sanford Stadium, where it has a 16-game winning streak, the second-longest in school history. The last time the Bulldogs lost at home was in 2001 to Auburn. The school record is 24 games from 1980-83.

"It's a pride thing," fullback Jeremy Thomas said. "Of course, you want to protect something like that."

There will be tangible benefits to being at home. The Bulldogs' offense struggled dealing with the crowd noise in Baton Rouge, La., last year.

"You have to be able to hear each other and communicate clearly. That's so much harder to do when it's loud," Coach Mark Richt said. "Hopefully, we'll do well early and get our crowd going, and it'll be a benefit for us. We need some help from our fan base to create problems for their offense."

The Bulldogs are 5-6 all-time against LSU at home and 5-3 all-time against defending national champions at home.

Georgia will hold its Dawg Walk at 1:50 p.m. under Sanford Bridge.

"I would like to think the Dawg Walk will be the best it's ever been," Richt said. "I would think our fans are as excited as they've been this year and maybe in years."

Richt's schedule during the week insulates him from game week hype.

"The fun part will come on Saturday, walking out there and seeing that sea of red," he said.

CLOSE TO FORM: Central Fellowship graduate Cedric Haywood thinks he could be less than 10 days away from entering Georgia's lineup for the first time.

Haywood, a redshirt sophomore, has been sidelined for more than a year by a torn ACL he suffered last preseason. He was expected to be back in time for this year's season-opener, but complications slowed his return. Monday was the first time he has practiced without wearing a green, no-contact jersey since last August.

"The knee is great," he said Wednesday. "The last two days have been the first days it hasn't hurt."

Haywood has put on 17 pounds since his injury and is now up to 202 pounds. He feels comfortable, he said, with the team's offensive system, and hopes to play in the Oct. 9 Tennessee game.

"I think he'll be healthy enough," Richt said. "Now he has to work himself into playing condition and prove he's ready to beat somebody out, but that's realistic. He's looking good."

STARTING ASSIGNMENTS: Leonard Pope will start at tight end and Des Williams will start at fullback, Richt said Thursday. Their backups, Martrez Milner and Jeremy Thomas, will get about 50 percent of the snaps at those positions, though, Richt said.

The Bulldogs still haven't settled on a punt returner to replace Tyson Browning, said assistant coach Jon Fabris. Tim Jennings, Sean Bailey and Thomas Flowers have been working at the spot in practice.

"There are six or seven guys in the mix," Fabris said.

INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Arnold Harrison (shoulder) was in a green jersey Thursday but is improving, Richt said. Derrick White will start at Harrison's strongside spot, but Harrison could play.

TIGER IMPROVING: LSU wide receiver Skyler Green, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Tigers' first win over Georgia last year, is expected to return this week from an ankle injury that has kept him out of all but one play in the last three games.

"Skyler's doing well," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "This is by far the best he's done. He's done things with a lot more consistency, and it doesn't seem like he's limping. He's made a lot of progress, and, hopefully he's getting the same kind of confidence in himself and his ankle that we see in him."

FRESHMAN UPDATE: The return of backup defensive end Richard Cook from a back injury may mean a redshirt season for Hawkinsville's Charles Johnson.

Johnson was the last of the Bulldogs' true freshmen who was expected to play this season. He and fullback Brannan Southerland still could be forced into action by a significant injury at their positions.

CAPTAINS: David Greene (offense), Reggie Brown (offense), Thomas Davis (defense) and Joe Tereshinski (special teams) will be the captains for Saturday's game.

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