KNOXVILLE (AP) — No. 6 Georgia and Tennessee head into their Saturday matchup at Neyland Stadium with health concerns at running back.
Tennessee’s Marlin Lane and Georgia’s Todd Gurley sat out the second half of their respective teams’ victories last week after Gurley sprained his left ankle and Lane had what was described as a “lower extremity injury.”
Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Monday that Lane’s status was day to day. At his Sunday teleconference, Georgia coach Mark Richt used the same words to describe Gurley’s situation.
“We’ll know a little bit more probably later today and into Tuesday and Wednesday,” Jones said Monday. “He will not practice today.”
Lane has rushed for 280 yards and four touchdowns on 45 carries this season. He had a 54-yard run – Tennessee’s longest play from scrimmage this season – and gained 66 yards on five carries Saturday in a 31-24 victory over South Alabama.
Gurley has run for 450 yards and four touchdowns on 71 attempts. He had run for 73 yards on just eight carries Saturday before getting hurt in the Bulldogs’ 44-41 triumph over No. 10 LSU.
Both teams may have enough other talented backs to run the ball effectively even if Lane or Gurley can’t play.
Georgia’s Keith Marshall has rushed for 213 yards on 51 carries this season after running for 759 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Marshall is coming off a 96-yard performance against LSU.
Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas also have shown promise. Green’s only carry against LSU resulted in an 18-yard gain.
“We’ve just got to kind of wait and see what’s going to happen,” Richt said. Green and Douglas “definitely are going to get more reps in practice because I don’t see Gurley going full speed Monday or Tuesday. We’ve just got to kind of go day by day with it. My guess is Gurley’s going to be limited in the amount of practice reps he takes, so those guys got to get those reps and be ready to play.”
Tennessee’s Rajion Neal leads the Vols with 468 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 80 carries. Neal ran for 169 yards against South Alabama, which represented the highest single-game total by a Tennessee player since Montario Hardesty gained 179 yards against Kentucky in 2009.
Neal was “attacking, decisive in his run reads, getting the ball north and south and making defenders miss,” Jones said. “I thought he played at another gear. He showed some burst and acceleration.”
Neal’s career-best performance has his teammates believing Tennessee’s rushing attack could withstand Lane’s absence if necessary.
“That gives us a tremendous amount of confidence,” Tennessee center James Stone said. “We always respect (Neal) and we were very happy to see (Neal) go out and get those yards the way he did.”
Tennessee isn’t bothering to hide the importance of Saturday’s game.
Jones announced Sunday night that Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 SEC) would wear its “Smokey gray” alternate uniforms when it faces Georgia (3-1, 2-0). The last time Tennessee used an alternate uniform was when it wore black jerseys on Halloween 2009 for a 31-13 victory over No. 21 South Carolina that represents the Vols’ last win over a ranked opponent.
“It’s something that I think our fan base has been waiting for,” Jones said. “And I know our players have been looking forward to wearing them. … That makes no impact in the outcome of the game. We have to play the game, and the game is won between the lines, but we just thought the timing was appropriate.”