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Trial begins in Athens Monday

Picture Day for the fans is today at the Classic Center in Athens.

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia cornerback Brandon Williams' trial on rape charges begins in Athens Monday, and Coach Mark Richt said Friday he hopes the process is not a distraction for his team.

"I think it is certainly going to be talked about,'' Richt said. "I don't believe it is going to distract the team. ... It's not going to be a real pleasant thing to be talked about one of our players and our program, so that won't be fun.'' 

Richt said he has not yet talked to the team about the trial but admitted "it might be worthwhile to at least make them aware of the trial.''

"I think the guys certainly care about Brandon Williams, but they have to go about going to school and getting ready for this first football game,'' Richt said. "Not that they won't ever think about it at all, but I wouldn't say it would be a big distraction.''

Williams faces charges of rape, aggravated assault with the intent to commit rape and aggravated sexual battery as the result of an alleged assault on a female student at McWhorter Hall in January.

Two Georgia basketball players — Steve Thomas and Tony Cole — face charges in separate trials to be held at later dates. Thomas is charged with rape and aggravated assault. Cole is charged with assault with the intent to commit rape.

Williams is still listed on the Georgia roster and would be a senior cornerback if he is allowed to return to the team.

Richt said "I'm not going to make any promises at this point'' about Williams' possible future with the team if he is cleared of the charges. Richt did say "it would be tough'' for Williams to make up for the missed practices and make an impact this season. He has been suspended through preseason practice, pending the outcome of the trial.

"The wisest thing to do is to let this trial run its course,'' Richt said.

"If I was certain I didn't want Brandon on this team, I would have taken care of it by now.''

 Richt said he had not considered the possibility that any player could miss practice time if called to serve as a character witness for Williams.

Two-a-days end: Georgia players celebrated the end of two-a-days with traditional fare Friday — watermelon served after the morning practice and barbeque after the afternoon session.

Another tradition was served as upperclassmen shaved the heads of freshmen.

The lucky freshmen were the ones who had all their hair shaved off. Less fortunate were those like offensive guard Josh Brock, who was left with a patch of hair on top and another patch in the back. Freshman offensive tackle Daniel Inman was given a Mohawk cut.

Injury update: Offensive tackle Kareem Marshall was still out after suffering a sprained neck earlier in the week. He is not expected to participate in this morning's scrimmage. Defensive tackle Ken Veal also likely will be held out today.  After suffering a concussion early in the week, Veal then hurt his ribs Friday morning.

Safety Kentrell Curry was wearing a green, no-contact jersey after suffering a concussion on Monday. He may return for the scrimmage. Receiver Fred Gibson was in a green jersey but was running routes and making catches after suffering a sprained wrist Monday.

On the line: Richt said final decisions about starters and top backups could be made based on today's scrimmage. One position to be determined is the backup running back behind starter Musa Smith. 

"I would hope we would know by the time we get through grading the film,'' Richt said. "It could be by committee.''

Candidates to play behind Smith include freshmen Michael Cooper and Tyson Browning, redshirt freshman Tony Milton and sophomores Ronnie Powell and Mike Gilliam.

Final reminder: Picture Day for the fans is today at the Classic Center in Athens. Team mascot Uga VI will be available for pictures for about two hours, beginning at 1 p.m. Players and coaches will be available for autographs and pictures from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Chatles Odum can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com 

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