- David Ching, SEC reporter
- 0 Shares
ATHENS, Ga. -- The hits keep coming for injury-riddled Georgia, which dropped out of the rankings Sunday for the first time in two seasons after a second consecutive loss.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt announced on his Sunday teleconference that wide receiver Chris Conley, who leads the team with 418 receiving yards and four touchdown catches, and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons are both questionable for the team's next game, Nov. 2 against Florida.
"I don't think Josh will need any surgery, I don't think Chris will need any surgery. That's the good news," said Richt, whose team already lost three key offensive players -- tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott Wesley -- to season-ending knee injuries and has played without All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley, receiver Michael Bennett and safety Tray Matthews for multiple games.
"How long these guys will take, it's hard to say. We're hopeful that they'll be able to play in the Florida game. I'd say Josh is more likely than Chris at this moment, but it's a long ways away before that, so I'm not going to count anybody out yet."
Conley injured his ankle on the final play of the Bulldogs' 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday while attempting to catch a last-gasp jump ball. He led Georgia's patchwork receiving corps with five catches for 40 yards against the Commodores.
Harvey-Clemons suffered a right foot injury at the 9:17 mark in the second quarter and did not return. If he does not play against Florida, Matthews, Quincy Mauger and Corey Moore would likely juggle the safety snaps, with Damian Swann sliding into Harvey-Clemons' role at nickelback.
"I don't know how healthy Josh is going to be, quite frankly, for this next game, so I'm sure Damian will be repping a lot inside until we know for sure what the deal is with Josh," Richt said.
Even with Conley in the lineup, Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) passed for just 114 yards against Vanderbilt, with senior quarterback Aaron Murray exceeding his career low by only 5 yards. The Bulldogs desperately needed the open date that arrives this week, as it will provide time for Gurley, Bennett and possibly Conley to return to health in time for the Florida game and bring back some punch to the slumping offense.
"Michael Bennett, we're feeling pretty good that he can make it back and we're thinking there's a pretty good shot Gurley will be ready to play," Richt said. "I'm hoping they can get at least one full week of practice with this open date."
Gurley attracted some notice as a Heisman Trophy candidate before he sprained his ankle in the second quarter of the Bulldogs' 44-41 win against LSU on Sept. 28. He missed the next week's overtime win against Tennessee -- when Marshall, Scott-Wesley and Bennett all suffered knee injuries -- and the losses against Missouri and Vanderbilt the last two weeks.
In three games and the single quarter against LSU, Gurley has 450 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Bennett is tied for third on the team with 14 catches and is fourth with 176 receiving yards despite missing the last two games.
Sophomore Harvey-Clemons is an emerging star on the Bulldogs' defense, ranking third on the team with 37 tackles and four pass breakups. He and Matthews -- the Bulldogs' projected starting safeties before the season -- have played together in just three of Georgia's seven games because of injuries to Matthews and Harvey-Clemons' one-game suspension to open the season.
The injury attrition has been the story of the season for Georgia, which crumbled recently after opening the season with a 3-1 record despite facing three top-10 teams in the first month.
"We have had a lot of guys that have been banged up, no doubt, and it's a shame for them," Richt said. "It does provide opportunity for other guys and it provides us with an opportunity just to see how deep we can dig physically and mentally as a team because it's still a team sport and we've got to find ways to win and find ways to give ourselves the best chance of winning."
The hits keep coming for injury-riddled Georgia, which dropped out of the rankings Sunday for the first time in two seasons after a second consecutive loss.