ATHENS – Georgia’s situation on the offensive line turned suddenly precarious on Wednesday. Starting right guard Chris Burnette went down in practice with a knee injury and head coach Mark Richt revealed afterward that offensive lineman Kolton Houston is currently ineligible with an “NCAA issue.”
Burnette fell out with a knee injury during individual work early in practice. Richt initially characterized the injury as “a tweak,” but the nature and extent will not be known until Thursday.
“Right this second we don’t think it’s anything serious,” Richt said. “We’ll see if it swells and see how he does tomorrow. Hopefully it doesn’t swell a lot.”
Richt said it was the same knee in Burnette injured last season that forced him to sit out as a redshirt. That was a patella injury.
Compounding the seriousness of the situation is former starting left guard Kenarious Gates just returned to practice Tuesday from an injured ankle that has kept him sidelined since the first half of the first game of the season. Sophomore Dallas Lee has been starting at left guard ever since.
“Gates did finish out the practice,” Richt said hopefully. “That helps. Between those guys hopefully we’ll have one of them ready, if not both.”
But what if neither is available?
“Don’t ask me that me that question,” Richt said with a feigned laugh. “I don’t know what would happen.”
Most likely, he allowed, the Bulldogs would slide over senior center Ben Jones to right guard and start David Andrews at center. Andrews, a true freshman from Norcross, got his first action last week against Coastal Carolina.
Meanwhile, Jones watched the first half of Wednesday’s practice in street clothes “because something he ate didn’t agree with him,” according to Richt. But Jones felt better later, went back inside and suited up and “toughed out” the second half of practice.
As for Houston, Wednesday was the first time it was revealed that he was sidelined for any reason other than “coach’s decision.” The 6-5, 291-poundredshirt freshman from Buford was competing for playing time at both guard and tackle in preseason camp but has not played in the Bulldogs’ first three games.
“It’s an NCAA issue,” Richt said. “It’s just an individual case that we’re not going to get into details about. It’s NCAA related. We think it’s going to cleared up. We just don’t know when.”
Numerous open records requests for documents regarding NCAA investigations filed by the AJC over the last few months have not uncovered any information stating that Houston’s eligibility was in question.
Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity declined comment Wednesday night, saying the matter was protected by federal student privacy laws.
Mitchell becomes main target
With Marlon Brown expected to be sidelined for a second straight week with an ankle injury, freshman Malcolm Mitchell is slated to get his third start in four games at split end. But the 6-foot-1, 184-pound speedster from Valdosta would likely be playing extensively anyway.
“Since camp started he’s shown his ability to make plays,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We knew he was a guy we were going to try to get the ball to.”
Mitchell is the Bulldogs’ leading receiver with 14 catches for 159 yards and has two touchdowns. And it’s not all just natural ability.
“He’s worked extremely hard at perfecting his craft,” Bobo said. “He’s a competitor. He’s not scared; he doesn’t flinch. We saw that early on when we put him in competitive situations in practice and he’s been the same way in games. I think he’ll only get better and be a big-play receiver for us.”
One time, at kicking camp
Saturday’s camp will reunite two of the best high school kickers in the land. Georgia’s Blair Walsh attended the prestigious Chris Sailers Camp in South California in 2007-08. along with Ole Miss junior Bryson Rose.
“Yeah, I know him,” Walsh said. “I haven’t really kept up with him since he went to Ole Miss but I’m glad he’s getting an opportunity to kick there.”
Rose, who is from Raleigh, was rated in 12th by Sailers in 2007.. He was redshirted his first year at Ole Miss and didn’t take over as the Rebels’ starting kicker until last season. Walsh, who was at one time ranked No. 1 bySailers, has started all four years at Georgia and is threatening the school’s all-time scoring record.
Etc. . . .
Starting free safety Bacarri Rambo remained in a non-contact jersey Wednesday due to a strained neck. Richt expects him to play Saturday, however. . . . Offensive lineman Austin Long returned to practice this week from an eye infection that sidelined him last week. . . . Georgia practiced for two hours Wednesday on the Field Turf, the same surface it will play on Saturday atVaught -Hemingway Stadium. . . . Legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley will be the special guest at a Georgia-Ole Miss viewing party at TheBuckhead Theatre on Peachtree Street Saturday at 11 a.m. He will sign copies of his book before and after the game and will conduct a Q&A with the audience at halftime.