However, he faced a battle for his position even before his suspension. True freshman Asher Allen, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice, already has impressed coaches and teammates and appears likely to move into the starting lineup thanks to Flowers' suspension.
"The one thing I took from Asher is it didn't matter to him what the situation was, he just went full speed, so he has a very good mentality about going 100 percent," defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said.
"Thomas has got a lot of great competition," Coach Mark Richt said Saturday before the suspension was announced. "There are some very talented young corners out there, and it'll be interesting to see where everybody lands."
Flowers was second in the SEC in punt return average last year (13.7 per return), but even that position is not safe. Allen showed a flair for returning punts in the spring, and several true freshmen, including Tony Wilson and Knowshon Moreno, took turns fielding punts Saturday as the team opened fall practices.
"It's not that we don't have confidence in (Flowers), but we also want to see what the other players can do," Richt said.
Ellerbe also is suspended from the third game.