The Return of Thomas?

ATHENS - After seeing a healthy dose of action in Georgia's first two games of the season, freshman tailback Carlton Thomas has disappeared from the offense in recent weeks.

WHERE'D HE GO

That's no knock on Thomas, head coach Mark Richt assured. It's simply a matter of a numbers game at tailback, where Caleb King's return to the lineup and a desire to let the Bulldogs' top two runners establish a groove, left little room for Thomas to see the field.

"He's getting it, but when Caleb came back that was kind of more of the issue than anything else," Richt said. "We're not disappointed in Carlton. But we've had a lot of extremely close games and one more healthy back in the lineup when Caleb was out."

Thomas could see more playing time this week, as King is expected to miss the game after suffering a concussion and a broken jaw last week against LSU.

The bulk of King's carries, however, will be going to freshman Washaun Ealey, who saw his first taste of action last week and looked sharp in the second half against the Tigers.

That was a home date, however, and this week's task gets tougher in front of more than 100,000 fans at Neyland Stadium. Richt said he's not sure how Ealey will react, but he said the freshman appears confident.

"He seems excited about it," Richt said. "I think he's practiced pretty well. He thinks he's ready, but we'll see. It's hard to describe what it's like over there to the guys who have never been there, and he'll get a taste of that."

Richt said he expected Richard Samuel to be the starting tailback, with Ealey getting roughly half the carries in the game.

NO HARD FEELINGS

While Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin made headlines throughout the offseason by criticizing several other programs in the SEC, linebacker Rennie Curran isn't looking at this week's game as a chance to punish the Volunteers' coach for any potentially critical comments.

"You see it and react to it, but you go with your life," Curran said. "You realize a coach is going to talk, but at the same time, I've never seen a coach put on pads and play. Sometimes as a coach you have to do things to get your team fired up, and I guess that was his way of doing that."

That doesn't mean Curran isn't taking this week's game seriously, however. When it comes to playing Tennessee, he doesn't care who's on the sidelines. He just wants to win.

"No matter what coach they have, this is such a huge rivalry and there's so much tradition invested in this game, that for them to beat us would be a huge boost to their program," Curran said.

LIGHTER ON HIS FEET

Senior defensive tackle Kade Weston has started the past two games for Georgia, and he's responded with two strong efforts, including a five-tackle, two-sack performance against LSU last week.

The keys to Weston's success, he said, have been a combination of an injury-free season and a slimmed-down physique. Weston lost about 15 pounds and is finally playing at a weight his coaches had hoped for.

"It's a lot different now," Weston said. "Coaches wanted me at 315, and I've been around there the whole season, and I think it shows on the field."


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