Georgia, the defending SEC champion, will be without a second key starter in its first two games after coach Mark Richt suspended junior cornerback Thomas Flowers for that stretch of the schedule, two sources close to the situation said Saturday.
Flowers' suspension, which is related to academics, is only the most recent on a list of off-field problems for Georgia football players.
Georgia should once again be a threat to win 10 games and play in a major bowl in 2006.
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In May, Richt suspended senior offensive tackle Daniel Inman for the team's first two games for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Inman, 6-foot-7 and 319 pounds, has started every game since his redshirt freshman season.
In addition to Flowers and Inman:
• Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who recorded 15 tackles and an interception in 10 games last season and figured to be a more central figure -- he was expected to battle for a starting job -- in the Bulldogs defense in 2006, was suspended for the first three games of the coming season. In January, Ellerbe borrowed a teammate's car without permission, used another person's driver's license to gain entry into a strip club, got into a car accident and was charged with DUI.
• Offensive lineman Ian Smith was suspended for the team's first game, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in May. No reason was given for the suspension. Smith is expected to be a backup at center or guard this season.
• Defensive back Antonio Sims, who has been recuperating from shoulder surgery, was suspended for the entire season due to multiple violations of university regulations, according to multiple published reports.
The Bulldogs, who open the season Sept. 2 against Western Kentucky and then start SEC play at South Carolina on Sept. 9, lost both their starting cornerbacks, DeMario Minter and Tim Jennings, from last season. Flowers was expected to start at cornerback and return punts for the Bulldogs. He had a 54-yard touchdown return in Georgia's 27-14 win at Tennessee last season.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 14 in the preseason USA Today coaches' poll, could replace Flowers with freshman Asher Allen, who graduated early from Tucker (Ga.) High and enrolled at Georgia in January. Junior Paul Oliver is expected to start at the other corner.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.