ATHENS, Ga. -- Ken Malcome isn’t necessarily Georgia’s closer, but he has played that role in the last two games.
Although freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have replaced Malcome atop the tailback depth chart, the sophomore received the bulk of his carries on Georgia’s final drive in both games and largely delivered positive results.
Malcome ran five times for a team-high 45 yards on the Bulldogs’ final possession in a loss against South Carolina, scoring his team’s only touchdown on a 3-yard burst with 1:55 left in the game. And last week against Kentucky, six of Malcome’s seven total carries (for a total of 19 yards) came on the Bulldogs’ final drive, when they needed to burn time off the clock while clinging to a 29-24 lead.
“Usually at that time of the game, he’s usually a little bit fresher than the other two and he is a very good downhill runner,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “As you observe him, he’s usually always getting yards after contact and even when nothing’s there, he seems to be pushing the pile and finishing runs and he’s done a good job of securing the football. Those are things that you want at that time of the game.”
That’s the role Richard Samuel played on the Bulldogs’ game-winning drive last season against Florida -- Georgia’s opponent on Saturday -- but Richt does not predict Samuel taking carries away from Malcome or one of the freshmen in Saturday’s rematch.
“At the tailback position, I don’t know,” Richt said. “We’ve got our rotation right now and I doubt it would change much, although Richard’s always ready to play at the tailback or the fullback for that matter.”
Jones’ absence: Senior defensive end Abry Jones is out for Saturday’s game, and potentially the rest of the season, following ankle surgery on Tuesday. But Richt would not confirm anything related to Jones’ surgery or status beyond the Florida game.
“Abry won’t play this week,” Richt said. “That’s really all I’ve been asked to say at this point. You might have information from other places, but from me, I’ve been asked just to let everybody know he’s not playing this week.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said after Tuesday’s practice that Georgia could use nose guard John Jenkins some at defensive end in Jones’ absence and also that junior Garrison Smith could play an increased role on the Bulldogs’ defensive line. Other lesser-used players such as Ray Drew and Michael Thornton could also figure into the coaching staff’s plans as the season progresses -- with Richt saying Wednesday that Drew “had better be ready because he’s going to play.”
“I think we’ll mix them all in there to be honest with you,” Grantham said. “Obviously John will play some outside and we’ll get Garrison going a little bit and we’ll just have to see how we play it after that.”
Injury update: Tight end Jay Rome was absent during the media portion of practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday, although he said he participated in a limited role on both days.
Rome said he had been receiving extra treatment for Achilles tendinitis but expects to play against Florida.
“It’s nothing major. I’m fine,” Rome said after Wednesday’s practice.
Breaking even: Georgia’s lack of success in recent series history against Florida is certainly no secret. The Bulldogs own a 4-18 record against the Gators since Steve Spurrier took over as Florida’s head coach in 1990, ushering in two decades of series dominance.
But after the Bulldogs’ win last season, Georgia’s seniors have the chance to become the first group since the class of 1991 to own a .500-or-better record against Florida. They only need to win on Saturday.
“I was at practice [Monday] night with Tavarres [King] and [Rantavious] Wooten and I was like, ‘Since I’ve been here, I’ve only beaten Florida one time and that was last year,’ ” senior receiver Marlon Brown said. “And Tavarres was like, ‘Me too. I’ve only beaten them one time since I’ve been here, too.’ So we’re just trying to get to 2-2 for our career.”
Following Sandy: Georgia’s coaching staff has kept one eye on the weather report lately as Hurricane Sandy pushes toward the Atlantic coast.
Although storm projections have Sandy making landfall well north of Jacksonville, Fla. -- the site of Saturday’s game -- the weather forecast calls for showers and wind gusts up to 22 mph.
The windy weather in particular could affect the game, Richt said.
“That’s a lot of wind,” he said of the 22-mph forecast. “That does affect the game, I think, more than just rain. I’ve been in some games where the wind’s just totally changed the game. And if it’s a crosswind, it’s even probably more of an issue than if it’s in your face or behind you.
“If it’s going sideways or just swirling around in all different directions, it kind of wreaks havoc on any kind of long balls, any kind of field goals,” he later added. “It is problematic, so we’ll see. Hopefully it changes course.”