ATHENS, Ga. — Ben Jones made an appearance at practice Thursday, but it was Chris Davis and Kevin Perez taking all the reps at center for Georgia.
Jones sprained his left ankle during Wednesday’s practice, and coaches said his return remains a day-to-day decision. Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense is already moving forward without him.
“You hate to see anybody go down,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “Everybody was pretty worried at first, but people get hurt in football. We’ve just got to move on for now, and hopefully he’s back in time to play.”
Asked whether that meant in time to play Oklahoma State, Cox pleaded ignorance — a refrain repeated by right tackle Clint Boling, who said Jones remained in high spirits despite the injury.
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“He’s a tough kid,” Boling said. “It definitely hurts him not being out there, but I’m sure he’ll get back out there as soon as he can, and we’ll be ready to have him back, too.”
Coach Mark Richt declined comment on the injury Wednesday and skipped his normal post-practice media session Thursday in order to attend his son’s football game.
While the timetable for Jones’ return remains vague, Boling said the important point is that the sophomore center will be back eventually, unlike two of Georgia’s starters on the line who suffered season-ending injuries last season.
“That’s the last thing anybody wants is to have anything like last year with that many guys getting hurt,” Boling said.
Caleb King has made a point of ducking reporters since injuring his hamstring last week, but fellow tailback Carlton Thomas said it’s not because King is sulking.
Despite being forced to the sideline in the middle of an intense competition for playing time at tailback, King has kept a positive attitude throughout the process, Thomas said.
“He’s been very positive in practice every day,” Thomas said. “He’s come in in the morning to rehab, just trying to get ready. You never see him down, even though there’s probably a time when he’s down because he wants to compete. But he’s doing everything he can to get back and be ready for Oklahoma State.”
While King is missing crucial chances to perform before a final depth chart is set for Georgia’s opener, Thomas said he thinks King’s attitude on the sideline has impressed coaches as much as anything he could have done on the field.
“It is a big test,” Thomas said. “It’s a test for anybody who has an injury this close to playing time. It’s going to test you mentally, so I feel like if he overcomes it, he’s going to have a lot of success.”
Learning from Cox
Adjusting to college football and memorizing a playbook is no easy task, but freshmen receivers Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten said the process has been made a lot smoother, thanks to the leadership of their quarterback.
“He’s been a great help,” Brown said of Cox, a fifth-year senior. “He’s been going over the playbook with me whenever we’re free. It’s a blessing because he knows everything.”
While Wooten has worked tirelessly to grasp the intricacies of the playbook, he said he has been amazed at Cox’s knowledge of the offense — not just at quarterback, but at every position.
“He’ll teach me different releases, spinning, all that different kind of stuff,” Wooten said. “He’s a great teacher, a great leader. He’s teaching me all the right things.”
For his part, Cox isn’t taking much credit for his receivers’ development. He said he has made a point of offering tips when needed, but said Michael Moore and A.J. Green have been the real mentors for the young wideouts.
Regardless of who has done the teaching, the lessons appear to be paying off, Cox said.
“When you come in as a freshman at any position, you get to a point where your head starts spinning, and then you start coming out of it,” Cox said. “I think they’re definitely out of that fog now, and they’re starting to recognize things quicker and run the right routes. They’re coming along nicely.”
Georgia president Michael Adams announced the dates for the university’s mandatory furlough days Wednesday, and the off time isn’t well suited to the football staff, who are being forced to take time off along with faculty and staff.
All university employees will be forced to take off Oct. 30, Nov. 25 and Dec. 24 this year — which would mean Richt and his staff would be on vacation the day before Georgia takes on Florida and three days before the Bulldogs travel to Georgia Tech.
Georgia’s sports information department confirmed that the football staff will comply with the furloughs, but there will be an appeals process available to request different days from the ones Adams announced Thursday. The caveat, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is that the days must still occur during October and November, meaning coaches must take time away during the height of football season.