Mark Richt offered a ringing endorsement to sophomore Richard Samuel on Friday, saying the tailback was firmly atop Georgia's depth chart. But while Samuel hopes to approach the 1,400 rushing yards compiled by Knowshon Moreno a year ago, the plan for replacing the 33 receptions and nearly 400 receiving yards Moreno added is still likely to be a committee approach.
"I think we're kind of going to pull from everybody to get certain aspects of what Knowshon did," Cox said. "Richard's a hard runner, kind of a bruiser and he gets open, but it's not like he has incredible ball skills."
Samuel caught just two passes for 11 yards as a freshman, numbers likely to increase with additional playing time this season. Still, fellow tailbacks Caleb King and Carlton Thomas are better known for their abilities as receivers and are likely to see plenty of action in that role.
"A guy like Caleb or Carlton, they have really smooth hands," Cox said. "I'm not saying we're not going to throw the ball to Richard, but I definitely think we'll be using them rather than expecting Richard to run every down and catch every ball we throw to the backs."
Senior defensive end Marcus Washington returned to the practice field Saturday after missing two days due to illness. Sophomore linebacker Marcus Dowtin worked out with the team, too, but in a green, non-contact jersey. Dowtin had missed nearly a week with strep throat.
"He's been in the bed," Richt said of Dowtin. "He hasn't even been going to class. But he's coming out of it now and he's made enough progress for us to believe he'll be back Monday."
The two illnesses were enough to warrant quick medical attention for both players, but it's a scenario Richt said his training staff has been preparing for since the spring.
With the outbreak of the H1N1 virus – better known as the swine flu – Richt said trainer Ron Courson and his staff have been quick to diagnose flu symptoms and isolate players who may be ill.
"We had a few guys over the summer that we moved them out of their dorms or we moved a roommate out of the dorm when we thought a guy might have some flu symptoms," Richt said. "Even Dowtin, we kept him away from everybody even though we knew it was more of a strep throat thing. Ron always does a great job, but on this we were pretty proactive."
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE
Last season, Georgia entered the year with its best-ever preseason ranking, players on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a ton of hype surrounding the team. The result was a disappointing 10-3 campaign in which the Bulldogs never came close to meeting lofty expectations.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot as Oklahoma State features the Sports Illustrated cover boys and national attention. While Cox isn't ready to call that an advantage for his side, he said he's well aware of the perils of too much publicity before a team even hits the field.
"I don't know how much of an advantage it will be," Cox said. "They might feed off of it. I just know it wasn't the best thing for us, or at least it didn't turn out to be last year. I like the way we're ranked. I like being in an underdog situation. I think it made us work harder this offseason, and we'll see how it affected them when we play them."