Originally created 09/17/99

Running backs grateful for week off



ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Jim Donnan said after last weekend's game with South Carolina that he didn't like bye weeks; they can be big momentum-killers, after all.

Despite that disadvantage, the Bulldogs aren't totally upset to be spending this weekend in front of the television -- they certainly need as much time as they can get to rebuild their depleted running back corps.

"We're just basically trying to maintain," running backs coach Leon Perry said. "Hopefully we can get some guys healthy this week."

It's been a slow process, one that has been ongoing since the first week of preseason practice. Georgia already knows two of its backs are gone for the season: Bruce Thornton with a broken wrist and Nick Callaway with torn knee ligaments.

Also, preseason injuries have kept Brett Millican (foot) sidelined and Patrick Pass (ankle) at less than 100 percent. Add to those problems the fractured jaw and concussion suffered by DeJuan Green against Utah State and Robert Arnaud's sprained knee in the South Carolina game, and there isn't much left for the Bulldogs.

Except Jasper Sanks. The sophomore got the bulk of Georgia's carries against the Gamecocks -- out of necessity as much as anything -- and responded with 130 yards. Pass, who has seen most of his work lately at receiver, had seven carries for seven yards against South Carolina.

"It's been kind of tough on me, a little more pressure on me and Patrick; we've got to step up because we've had Brett Millican go down, Robert Arnaud, DeJuan, Nick Callaway is out for the year," Sanks said. "But it's very exciting to be in this spot and have that pressure on me. It's something that I wanted, to carry it like this."

Donnan is expecting the injured to return during the next few weeks, possibly gaining Millican's services for the Central Florida game, Green against LSU, and Arnaud for Tennessee or Vanderbilt.

For insurance purposes as much as anything else, the coaches also have spent more time with short-yardage specialist Charles Grant and true freshman Kenny Bailey in practice this week. Donnan said Grant's practice time is still slanted "80/20" toward defense, but that he is getting more work in the backfield. Donnan said after Saturday's game that he didn't necessarily want to ditch a planned redshirt year for Bailey, because the other backs will be returning at some point.

But in the meantime, Sanks is the man -- even though his performance early in the South Carolina game made it look as if he wasn't quite ready for that designation.

He accumulated only 34 yards in the first half against the Gamecocks, making a couple of good runs, but also hit holes a step or two slow at times.

"I was a little tentative because I had that deep thigh bruise from the first game and it was still bothering me a little bit," he said. "I looked at the tape, and I was still missing a lot of holes, a couple assignments. But overall, it was a decent warmup the other night. The carry increase was one thing that I wanted, and I got in a little rhythm and it felt pretty good."