ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia finds out today whether Florida will play this weekend with one of its offensive stars back in the fold.
Suspended running back/receiver Chris Rainey has been out since Sept. 14, but Gators coach Urban Meyer said Rainey had taken the necessary steps to play again.
“As of now, he’s done everything he’s supposed to do,” Meyer said. “I’ll just do a thorough check on everything that I’ve asked him to do.”
Rainey was suspended after a charge of aggravated stalking in early September. The charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor.
“I think obviously the initial sting is a lot of negativity brought on towards the program and disappointment,” Meyer said. “Then it’s an opportunity for a young man to clear his name, get himself right, like we’ve had with a bunch of young men around here. We’re going to keep a tight rein on Chris Rainey. He’s never faced anything like this before. He certainly never better again.”
Rainey is a valuable piece to Florida’s offensive puzzle, scoring nine rushing touchdowns the past two seasons. He switched to receiver this offseason.
He made six catches for 34 yards and a score this season before his suspension.
“He’s dangerous,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. “He’s fast, and he has ball skills. He is a guy who could take it the distance anytime he touches it. One mistake with that guy, and he gets out into space, and he is going to score. He is a special player. He’s a game-breaking player, and that’s what we need. That’s what they need. That’s what everybody needs is those kind of guys.”
Meyer said running back Jeff Demps, slowed by a sprained foot, has practiced this week but not at full speed.
Getting the grade
The Georgia football team has the second-best graduation rate in the SEC for players enrolled between 2000-03. The NCAA on Wednesday released its findings of the Graduation Success Report (GSR). It is a percentage that tracks the graduation rates of student athletes at colleges across the country.
Vanderbilt topped the list among SEC schools, with Notre Dame taking national top ranking.
“I think that’s great news for all of our players that have worked so hard and our academic people,” Richt said. “It’s certainly not as high as we want it to be, but, considering a lot of people like to compare numbers within the league, to have that No. 2 rating is big.”
Cornerback Branden Smith, who missed the past three games with a concussion, has been cleared to play Saturday.
Smith received the concussion on a kick return Oct. 2 at Colorado. Because the injury was his second concussion suffered this season, the Georgia medical staff took extra precaution in bringing back the sophomore, who also returns punts and kicks and plays offense.
“It was a little scary, but I wasn’t worrying about it because that’s the game of football,” Smith said. “It’s a contact sport. It’s a dangerous sport. Ever since I was 6, I knew what I was getting into about playing the sport of football. Everybody is taking that risk. That is what the sport of football is all about, just taking the risk.”
Ealey starting in question
With the Bulldogs pushed indoors by rain Wednesday, running back Washaun Ealey could not be fully evaluated.
Ealey, who scored five touchdowns last week against Kentucky, said he is dealing with a sprain of the MCL in his right knee.
Ealey said his knee is 100 percent and the injury is really nothing.
But Richt isn’t sure who will start at tailback, he said. Junior Caleb King returns from a two-game suspension this weekend.
Ealey’s injury could keep him from starting, Richt said.
“I guess so, a little bit,” Richt said. “I can’t sit here and say. I don’t even know who is going to start right now. If Washaun was healthy the entire week, he might have got the nod.”
With pouring rain and lightning in the sky over the practice field Wednesday, Georgia was forced to hold practice indoors, at the Ramsey Student Center.
“I think everybody focused,” Richt said. “I think we got as much out of it as we could. It may have been a blessing, you know, to our team as far as allowing our bodies to rest a little bit. I would have rather been outside if we could, but there was enough lightning in the area where we were advised not to. Most of the practice involved a walkthrough on both sides of the ball and about 25 minutes of kicking.”
The practice was productive, Richt said, but nothing like being outside.
“I think the information we needed to cover was covered, but there’s nothing like doing it,” he said. “I wish we could have got out there and done it.”