Blue is the secondary's leader vs. UK

ATHENS - Georgia is glad Greg Blue decided to show up for practice this week. They're going to need him.

Greg Blue, like most of the Bulldogs' defensive players, didn't do very well in Georgia's 31-24 win over Florida. In Blue's case, he thought it was bad enough that he should consider laying low for a while rather than risk the wrath of his coaches.

"I missed too many tackles. That wasn't me, man," the junior safety said. "I was scared to come here (Monday) because I missed so many tackles."

Blue made it to Monday's practice as the No. 8 Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1) began preparations for Saturday's game against Kentucky (1-7, 0-5). The game should provide Blue plenty of opportunity for redemption. With standout Thomas Davis expected to sit out due to ankle and knee sprains, Blue suddenly will be Georgia's veteran safety.

"I think it'll be good experience for him to be the senior safety, to be the leader," Coach Mark Richt said.

Until now, Blue has played in Davis' shadow. Blue is second on the team in tackles with 51 and was tied for the team lead in tackles against Florida (five) despite having an off game.

"I think Greg is playing pretty well," secondary coach Willie Martinez said. "He'd be the first to tell you he didn't play his best ball on Saturday. I think he's itching to get back out there and play again."

Blue played in 24 games as a reserve the last two seasons and developed the reputation as a hard-hitter who needed to work on his consistency. As a starter this year, he is making fewer mistakes but also seems to be making fewer bone-jarring tackles.

"I still take my chances when I can," he said. "I haven't turned it down. I'm just more smart about when I try to make the big hit. My progress has been all right. It ain't been how I want it to be. I've got a lot of room to grow."

Martinez is confident Blue can handle the responsibility of being the elder statesman on Georgia's last line of defense.

"He better be the leader," he said. "Anytime you have an experienced player, you are always looking for leadership."

Blue has started all seven games this year at rover but will move to free safety if Davis can't play since fill-in Tra Battle is more familiar with the rover position. True freshman Kelin Johnson will be the top backup at both spots.

"I just have to make sure Tra and Kelin are ready for this game," Blue said. "I feel ready for that."

Although Blue is listed as a junior, this could be his last year as a Bulldog. He entered in 2001 as a partial qualifier, meaning he was forced to sit out his first season and must graduate within four years in order to earn back that year of eligibility. The Bulldogs are hopeful Blue will be eligible to come back next season.

"I know he's on track," Richt said. "We think he's going to get there."

If he does return, Saturday's experience should serve him well.

"I'm down right now," Blue said, "but I can't wait until Saturday to make up for myself."

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