ATHENS, Ga. - Freshman practice for Georgia's offensive linemen took on an increased sense of urgency Monday with the news that George Foster will be out 12 weeks with a broken wrist suffered in a one-car accident Saturday. The loss of Foster was only part of an eventful Monday for Georgia which ended with one freshman leaving the team - after a visit to the Clarke County jail - and another freshman being lost for at least a month with back surgery.
Foster, a senior from Macon, started nine games at split tackle last season and again was expected to play a leading role in a three-man rotation with Jon Stinchcomb and Kareem Marshall at the two tackle spots.
Instead, Foster had surgery - which included ligament repair and the insertion of pins - Sunday at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. Foster was to be released from the hospital Monday night. He said he plans to report with other varsity players today.
Foster was driving from Macon to Athens Saturday when his 1986 Lincoln Town Car left the road and hit an embankment near Madison, Ga., in Morgan County. Foster dislocated his right wrist when it hit the steering wheel.
"I just lost control and hit a grass patch and went into an embankment,'' Foster said Monday from his Piedmont Hospital room. "My right wrist banged into the steering wheel.''
Added Foster: "I'm just taking it as it is. It happened and I can't do anything about it.''
There was other news Monday as Coach Mark Richt had to re-evaluate what players will be available for the 2002 season
Freshman linebacker Marquis Elmore of Folkston, Ga., will have surgery today to repair a herniated disc. Elmore should return this season, as director of sports medicine Ron Courson said four weeks is the normal recovery period.
Elmore has had chronic back problems and the decision was made to confront the situation at the start of his career. He is one of the top players in the freshman class.
Another true freshman, defensive lineman Aaron Scranton of Buford, Ga., announced he is giving up football and may instead pursue the martial arts.
Before Scranton could leave Athens, he had to turn himself into the Clarke County police Monday on a felony charge of having a weapon on school property. Scranton mounted a 36-inch sword on his McWhorter Hall dormitory room wall.
The sword, which Scranton said was not sharpened and is part of a collection, was discovered in a routine inspection of the rooms.
"I didn't think of it being on school property,'' said Scranton, who was told the charge may be dropped. "I should have. It was pretty stupid on my part.''
Richt and Scranton said the incident had no bearing on Scranton's decision to give up football.
"Aaron had been back and forth, wavering on whether he wanted to play football,'' Richt said.
Georgia officials had to talk Scranton into giving practice a chance, but Scranton quickly decided after two practices he could not commit to the sport.
"It really is five years of blood, sweat and tears, and if your heart isn't in it, you can't do it,'' Scranton said.
There also was medical news involving freshmen Antonio Mercier of Washington, Ga., and Olaolu Sanni-Osomo of LaGrange. Mercier, an offensive tackle, learned earlier this summer that he has diabetes, and he is being held out of physical activity until his blood sugar is lowered.
"We don't see any long-term problem with it,'' Richt said.
Sanni-Osomo, a linebacker, also was wearing a green, no-contact jersey Monday as he continues to recover from recent arthroscopic surgery to remove what Richt called "a loose particle'' from his knee.
The loss of Foster will have the most dramatic effect on the 2002 season.
"Obviously, we're disappointed he's going through what he's going through,'' said offensive line coach Neil Callaway. "It will be a setback for us and him, too.''
Said Richt: "I feel awful for George. He's a guy we think is going to be a big contributor for us. He's worked hard this summer and taken care of his academics, and now this happens. We're very, very pleased he was wearing his seat belt.''
Thanks to six returning seniors, the offensive line was expected to be a strength for Georgia this season. Now Foster likely will be out at least until the Oct. 26 Kentucky game or the Nov. 2 Florida game.
Until Foster can return to action, Stinchcomb and Marshall will have to handle a heavy percentage of snaps. If either of the two remaining seniors are hurt, Georgia likely would have to turn to redshirt freshman Dennis Roland or one of the true freshmen who Monday went through their first day of two-a-day practices.
Even before the loss of Foster, such freshmen as Max Jean-Gilles - who checked in at 6-foot-4 and 365 pounds - Mercier (6-5, 303), Daniel Inman (6-7, 302) and Bartley Miller (6-4, 294) were expected to provide depth this season. Jean-Gilles may now push Roland for a top backup job at tackle.
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