ATHENS, Ga. -- Chase Vasser might not be able to duplicate Cornelius Washington's pass-rush skills, but he's one of the top candidates to take his suspended teammate's spot in the starting lineup over the next two games.
Washington, who registered 3.5 sacks in Georgia's last two games, was arrested early Sunday for speeding and driving under the influence, triggering a suspension for this weekend's game at Tennessee and the following week's game at Vanderbilt. His absence will free a considerable amount of playing time -- and Vasser, former walk-on Reuben Faloughi and freshman Ray Drew will compete this week to win the bulk of the opportunities.
"Cornelius is a phenomenal pass rusher so every day I know when we watch practice from the day before, when we do pass rush, I watch him," said Vasser, who is tied for 11th on the team with 10 tackles. "He has a great get-off and he's good with his hands, so my goal is to get as good as him. My get-off isn't as good as his, but it's hard. He's that quick."
Vasser started ahead of Washington at outside linebacker two games ago at Ole Miss and prior to that against South Carolina, so the sophomore has already played plenty of significant downs. Vasser believes he has a well-rounded skill set that could help the Bulldogs until Washington returns.
"I'm not as good as Cornelius, but I'm not bad at pass rushing," Vasser said. "I feel like I'm good at coverage. I'm not going to get outrun by a running back or anything, and I know the coverages really well, so I feel that's probably one of my strong points. And I'm great in the open field."
Drew is an intriguing candidate to pick up Washington's pass-rush slack after arriving at Georgia as one of the most hyped members of its most recent signing class.
Drew played defensive end in high school and is still learning the finer points of playing outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme, but he believes he is making progress.
"I think one of the strengths to my game is my pass rush game," Drew said. "One thing I think they want to see out of me a little more is the use of my hands, which I believe I've been giving them the past few days."
Ken Malcome apparently wants to remove all doubt as to where his heart lies.
Nearly a week after quitting the team and asking to return a day later, the redshirt freshman running back arrived for media interviews on Monday night wearing a Georgia sweatshirt, Georgia sweatpants and a Georgia ski cap.
"I guess I cracked under pressure," Malcome said. "Like I told Coach [Mark Richt] and I'm telling everybody else, it'll never happen again."
Malcome admitted his frustrations were mostly related to his place on Georgia's depth chart. With one carry for no gain this season, he has played less than Isaiah Crowell, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and former walk-on Brandon Harton.
Malcome said the coaches tell him he needs to stay healthy enough to practice consistently if he wants to contribute on gameday.
"I figure I did enough to get on the field, but there's just some things they're telling me," he said. "I don't know what's going on sometimes. I guess just keep practicing. That's what they keep telling me, so I'm going to do what they tell me."
Compliments for Crowell
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley had high praise for Georgia freshman running back Isaiah Crowell at the Volunteers' weekly press gathering on Monday.
Dooley called Crowell Georgia's "missing piece" on offense who has helped the Bulldogs' play-action passing game become more effective. The freshman rushed for 104 yards last weekend against Mississippi State and ranks fourth in the SEC with 103 yards per game.
"On offense it looks like they found kind of their missing piece and that was a good runner," Dooley said. "Their runner is physical, he's fast, he's productiv,e and of course that allows them to be efficient, which is what they want to be on offense, very balanced."
Richt said on his Monday radio show that cornerback/kick returner Brandon Boykin took a couple of shots to the head against Mississippi State, one of which knocked some of his teeth loose.
Richt said Boykin, who practiced in a green no-contact jersey on Monday and was not made available for interviews, had to get his teeth wired "to keep them in there firm" after getting upended on a kick return and landing face-first.
"His facemask got bent in and hit the bottom of his teeth and knocked those things around a little bit," Richt said. "Even a mouthpiece on top was not going to save him on the bottom row."
Richt expressed hope that cornerback Damian Swann (groin) could return this week, but said it was less likely that receiver Rantavious Wooten (concussion) will be ready to play by Saturday.
In other injury news, freshman defensive back Chris Sanders posted on his Twitter page that he will have season-ending surgery on his shoulder on Friday.
The SEC announced on Monday that Georgia's Oct. 15 game at Vanderbilt will kick off at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN3 and FSN. ... Crowell on Monday was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season. Crowell rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries against Mississippi State. ... Boykin made the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll for the fourth time this year. Boykin had five tackles, forced a fumble and finished with 88 return yards -- 43 on two kickoffs and 45 on three punts -- against Mississippi State. The Hornung Award recognizes the nation's most versatile player.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.