Bailey expects to play against Auburn

Bailey was held out of Monday night's light workout and may not practice today, but still he expressed confidence that he will be ready by Saturday.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia senior linebacker Boss Bailey, encouraged by the lack of swellng in his sprained right knee, said Monday he expects to play in Saturday's crucial game at Auburn.

Bailey, who leads Georgia with 92 tackles, suffered the injury in the second quarter of last week's 31-17 win over Mississippi.

On Sunday, Coach Mark Richt said he would not know if Bailey can play against Auburn until Bailey can practice. Bailey was held out of Monday night's light workout and may not practice today, but still he expressed confidence that he will be ready by Saturday.

"Yeah, I should be able to play,'' Bailey said. "I just have to work a little soreness out.''

Bailey said a MRI showed no significant damage other than to his meniscus cartilage, which he said "just got irritated.''

Added Bailey: "It feels a lot better (than after the game). ... There wasn't swelling at all.''

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brian VanGorder also was encouraged Monday, saying "I think Boss is going to be fine.''

VanGorder said that due to Bailey's experience, he can prepare this week with "mental reps'' during practice.

"He doesn't need to be out there all the time,'' VanGorder said.

If Bailey can start, Georgia should have its three starting linebackers on the field together for the first time in three games.

Chris Clemons has missed the last two starts with a sprained ankle but played about 15 snaps in a backup role against Ole Miss. If Clemons returns to his weakside linebacker spot, Bailey can move back to his normal strongside linebacker position.

With Clemons out, Bailey moved from his normal outside linebacker spot and Thomas Davis started the last two games at Bailey's normal position. Freshman Tony Taylor and walk-on Jamario Smith also saw more work the last two weeks. Smith played every snap after Bailey's injury Saturday night.

VanGorder said the ability to build depth at linebacker the last two games is the positive result of the injuries.

"I was really proud of Jamario and the way he stepped up,'' VanGorder said.

The one constant at linebacker has been middle linebacker Tony Gilbert, who is trying to catch Bailey for the team lead in tackles. Gilbert has led the team in tackles the last two years, and he now has 81 stops -- 11 behind Bailey. David Pollack is third on the team with 79 tackles.

Smith, from Mary Persons High School, originally signed with the Naval Academy, but after attending prep school there for one year decided he would rather return to his home state and attend Georgia as a preferred walk-on.

"He's a sharp kid,'' said Coach Mark Richt. "He came in and tested better than any walk-on we had. He ran the best and jumped the best and seemed to be a strong guy for his size. He's a very tough physical guy who is not afraid to step up and prove what he can do.''

Smith said he expected to spend this season just watching and learning the strongside position from Bailey. Instead, Smith has played in five games and has 11 tackles.

"It's a blessing to have somebody like that to learn from,'' Smith said Monday.

"He really is a boss in practice and in games. He just prepares well in everything he does.''

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