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Football Notes: Damien Gary expected to play

ATHENS, Ga. — After surviving what Coach Mark Richt had billed as "the big test'' for Damien Gary, the receiver said Tuesday he expects to play in Saturday's SEC championship game.

Damien Gary has missed four games with an injury to his lower left leg. He had been Georgia's second-leading receiver as well as one of the top punt returners in the nation.

Gary says he does not yet have full range of motion in his ankle, and that could affect his ability to cut. Still, he ran well enough Tuesday that receivers coach John Eason said: "The leg is not bothering him. The leg is fine.''

Added Eason: "It's just a matter of trying to get him back in some kind of shape.''

Said Gary: "It felt real good, besides being out of shape and a little bit rusty. I cut off (the left leg) pretty good.''  

Gary said he fielded punts Monday and Tuesday but may be reluctant to take that job back from Sean Jones, who has excelled in a fill-in role.

"Sean has done a great job,'' Gary said. "My hat is off to him. He's got a great rhythm going. It's his job.''  

Georgia had leading receiver Terrence Edwards return from a separated shoulder last week. It should be closer to full strength at the position this week since Fred Gibson suffered a thumb injury in October.  

VanGorder a Broyles Award finalist: Georgia defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brian VanGorder is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award given to the nation's top assistant coach.  

Georgia ranks 10th in the nation in scoring defense and No. 25 in total defense despite losing six players on defense in the 2002 NFL draft.  

The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at a banquet in Little Rock, Ark.  

The award has been presented for seven years in honor of longtime Arkansas athletics director and former football coach Frank Broyles.  

Several past winners, including Tennessee's David Cutcliffe (1998), Georgia Tech's Ralph Friedgen (1999) and Oklahoma's Mark Mangino (2000) now are head coaches at other schools.  

Competition at outside linebacker: VanGorder said he will let freshman Tony Taylor and junior Chris Clemons compete for the starting job at weakside linebacker through the week of practice.  

Taylor earned his first start against Georgia Tech.

"I think their playing time would be pretty much evenly split,'' VanGorder said.

The turf issue: Coach Mark Richt had planned to have his team work on its artificial turf practice field Thursday as preparation for Saturday's SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome, but he says he has changed his mind.  

"First of all, our turf is not the same as the Georgia Dome's turf,'' Richt said Tuesday. "Also, I think it is more important to work with crowd noise. So we'll work in the stadium.''  

Georgia will have a light practice at the Georgia Dome Friday, and Richt said he will have his players test the turf — and their new turf shoes — with full-speed cutting.

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