Richt expects Gurley to finish out season with Bulldogs

Todd Gurley played a big role for coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs in last year's game against Florida in Jacksonville. (Photo by USA Today)

Todd Gurley played a big role for coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs in last year’s game against Florida in Jacksonville. (Photo by USA Today)

ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt made his regularly-scheduled appearance on the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference call on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, he was inundated with questions about the NCAA’s ruling that called for star tailback Todd Gurley to remain suspended for two more games.

During that call, Richt addressed the most important question regarding the entire scenario. That is, if Gurley’s appeal is unsuccessful as most expect it will be, is it certain that he will return to the Bulldogs for their Nov. 15 home game against Auburn? As a projected top five NFL prospect, the option of foregoing the rest of his amateur career and accepting money while training for NFL tryouts is a realistic scenario.

Richt indicated Gurley will choose to remain with the Bulldogs.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Todd’s going to finish with honor and he’s going to have a great finish to his career here at Georgia, whenever it ends,” Richt said. “But, yeah, I think he’s excited about finishing this season with his teammates.”

Richt fielded 12 questions during his 10-minute session with reporters. Nine of them were related to Wednesday’s news that the NCAA had decided Gurley needed to be suspended for four games and should be required to do 40 hours of community and make restitution for admitting to receiving $3,000 from memorabilia dealers for autographing merchandise.

Richt stuck to a general theme in his answers. That was that the Bulldogs aren’t worrying about Gurley’s status and instead are focusing all their energy on preparing for Saturday’s game against Florida.

Following are Richt’s comments:

On whether Gurley’s appeal might be successful …

“Right now we’re really not worried about that. We’re just really trying to stay focused on getting ready for this game. That’s all we can do right now. But, you know, I think our team has done a very good job of keeping their focus and trying to do a good job of controlling what we can do. All we can do is try to have a great day of practice today.”

On the team’s reaction to the ruling …

“I haven’t even met with the team yet. We’re going to practice today and we’re going to try to get better today. That’s all we’re going to focus on. The other stuff we don’t worry too much about.”

On how Gurley’s absence affects the tailback position …

“Our philosophy with our running game and our running backs is to try to get as many healthy backs playing as possible. Splitting up the workload as much as we can when we can. Early in the year we were playing three and four backs at times. Our goal was to keep fresh throughout the game, keep fresh throughout the season, trying to have fresh legs at the end of a game against maybe a tired defense and some tired tacklers. That’s how we’d like to go about. Obviously we’ve had to rely a little bit more on Nick (Chubb). He’s had a heavier workload than we would normally have if we had a bigger stable of backs. But it’s worked the last couple of games.”

On his personal reaction to Gurley not being reinstated …

“My reaction is, quite frankly, that we could only control certain things. My goal is to control how well we practice and how hard we practice. That’s been our focus all season long, and maybe a little bit more in the last couple of ballgames. There are questions and there are things swirling around that could become a distraction. But I think our players have done a really good job about only worrying about the things they could control and trying to prepare well enough to get a victory.”

On whether knowing might provide some relief for team …

“Regardless of what happens, the bottom line is, again, our guys understand that we’re playing a very good team this weekend. It is historically a very hotly-contested game every time we hook up against Florida. So we better focus on the right things or it’s going to be a rough day. So, again, we’re mostly just concerned about that right now.”

On whether J.J. Green will return to tailback and if Sony Michel or Keith Marshall might be pressed into service …

“That’s a hard one on Sony or Keith. I’d say doubtful on those guys. J.J. is going to be practicing all week on defense, but we know if we needed him in the middle of the game he could play offense. He knows enough of what to do that he could do that if we needed to.”

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