ATHENS - Mark Richt said Sunday there will not be "wholesale changes" on his beleaguered defense, while on the other side of the ball is star tailback is "real close" to returning.
But not definite.
Speaking on his Sunday media teleconference, Richt said he's still not sure if sophomore tailback Todd Gurley or freshman safety Tray Matthews will practice on Monday. Receiver Jonathan Rumph is going to return to practice on Monday, putting the junior college transfer on track to finally see the field.
The focus is on Gurley, who has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle. Richt did not categorize Gurley's status for the Vanderbilt game, other than saying: "He's close. Real close."
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Still, the indication is the team will approach Gurley very cautiously, with a bye week after the Vanderbilt game, followed by a pivotal matchup with Florida.
"I think what we want is a really healthy Todd Gurley. We want him to be at his best. We don't want him going in there without being full-speed, because if you do it’s not safe for him, and it could also cause him another setback that could sit him down for even longer," Richt said. "Whenever he looks healthy enough and feels healthy enough, then we’ll play him.”
Meanwhile, Richt did not say much definitive about changes to his defense, which is now tied for 65th nationally (out of 123 teams) in total yards against, at 399 per game. The young unit has been plagued by big plays against the secondary, with the Bulldogs allowing opponents to convert 43.7 percent of the time. That ranks tied for 97th nationally.
"You've just got to be careful not to change too much because (then) you have no continuity," Richt said. "If you've got a guy who's going through some growing pains and then you decide to make a change with another new guy, then he's gotta go through his growing pains as well. And before you know it you've got no continuity at all. So we're not in any kind of position where we think we need to make a bunch of wholesale changes right now."
A big problem has been a lack of turnovers. Georgia committed four in the loss to Missouri, while not forcing any. The Bulldogs have only forced five turnovers all year, which is the third-lowest number in the nation, more than only Troy and Temple.
Richt brought up the lack of turnovers without being asked, sounding frustrated. He pointed out that Georgia has lost the turnover margin in each of its two losses, which were both close enough games where a few turnovers forced could have made the difference.
“We’re getting a good many sacks, but usually when you get sacks you get the ball out every once in awhile from that quarterback,” Richt said. “I think the guys are just trying to get the sack and not think, while I’m back there why don’t I strip the ball too.”
Then Richt mentioned how in past years safety Bacarri Rambo was adept at stripping the ball from a pile. The hope is that the younger players will get more comfortable and thus feel more free to try to force turnovers.
“We work drills until we’re blue in the face. But you’ve gotta kind of do it in the heat of the battle,” Richt said.