One of the most-discussed non-issues of Georgia's preseason appears to finally be settled.
For weeks, Bulldogs coaches have maintained that tailbacks Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Knowshon Moreno would split carries this season, but thus far have been noncommittal as to who will start next Saturday against Oklahoma State.
Brown seemed to have the inside track on the starting spot in recent practices and Lumpkin confirmed after Thursday's practice game that Brown is on track to start the opener.
"Yeah that's how it's gonna be," Lumpkin said.
That Brown appears ready to play in the opener at all is impressive, much less to be occupying a starting role.
He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Vanderbilt last October, but says he's better than ever only 10 months later.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Thursday night he was unsure which player running backs coach Tony Ball would start in the opener, but was complimentary of the way Brown has improved on some of his shortcomings from a year ago.
Brown was the starting tailback in Georgia's first four games last year, but relinquished the job by averaging only 29 yards per game and less than 3 yards per carry.
Richt said Brown was impatient and trying to force his way through holes that hadn't developed yet, but that has not been a problem this preseason.
"I thought his No. 1 negative last year was that he just wanted to fly in there and blast his way through everything and probably didn't have the vision, and the patience more than the vision," Richt said. "You've gotta be real patient, see it and then hit it. (He's doing a) much better job this year."
Gray's anatomy (still intact)
True freshman quarterback Logan Gray showed a degree of selflessness by volunteering to "go live" in Thursday's practice game, meaning Georgia's varsity defensive players would be allowed to tackle the young scout team signal-caller.
The Bulldogs' defensive front dominated the scrimmage, putting heavy pressure on Gray. But the fleet-footed Missourian gave the defenders much-needed practice for what they'll face next Saturday in Oklahoma State's Bobby Reid -- a quarterback capable of easily slipping away from would-be tacklers.
Gray scored the scout team's only touchdown on a 2-yard quarterback keeper.
"He escaped on more than one occasion where in a normal setting, we'd have called it a sack -- 'Oh, he'd have had him.' Well, no he didn't have him," Richt said. "The guy's quick, spun out, he's got speed, bought time. He just showed us that we've gotta truly be able to contain."
In fact, it may have opened the defensive players' eyes on the importance of running to the ball. Richt said the coaches may give them another taste of live pursuit against Gray next week in practice.
"That's tough on the defensive ends if you're not allowed to tackle for real. We're probably doing them an injustice," Richt said. "We might even let them tackle once or twice next week because it's just hard. You get used to saying, 'Well I got there, so I sacked him.' No, you've gotta wrap him up and you've still gotta contain him."
Matthew Stafford finished Thursday's single half of play against the scout team having completed 7 of 14 passes for 59 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown to Tony Wilson. Backup Joe Cox was 4-for-6 for 64 yards and a 50-yard touchdown to Demiko Goodman.
Brown, Lumpkin and Moreno all received little work, with Brown leading the trio with 14 rushing yards. Moreno did return a kickoff for a 93-yard touchdown.
Jason Johnson led all ballcarriers with six attempts for 62 yards and redshirt freshman fullback Shaun Chapas had three carries for 53 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown.
Only two players had more than 10 receiving yards, Goodman, whose only catch was the touchdown, and Kenneth Harris, who had two catches for 23 yards.
Five Georgia defenders registered three tackles, including Geno Atkins, who also had two sacks, and Demarcus Dobbs, who had a sack and a fumble recovery.
Stafford is one of 35 players on the Davey O'Brien Award watch list, given annually to the nation's top quarterback. Semifinalists will be announced in October and the winner will be announced Dec. 6. ... Richt predicted offensive guard Scott Haverkamp (ankle), tailback Caleb King (hamstring) and tight end Tripp Chandler (ribs) would be able to return to practice on Monday. ... Place-kicker Brandon Coutu made an extra point and missed a 40-yard field goal in the practice game. ... After Chapas' touchdown run, walk-on defensive back Molloy VanGorder -- son of former Georgia defensive coordinator and current Atlanta Falcons assistant Brian VanGorder -- intercepted the offense's 2-point pass attempt.