ATHENS, Ga. -- Contrary to published reports, Jessie Miller is not yet academically ineligible to play football for Georgia this season, Jim Donnan said Wednesday.
The Bulldogs' fifth-year coach said Miller, a former Washington County star and a rising sophomore linebacker, is still taking classes in Athens with the hope of staying for the fall. Several newspapers, including The Augusta Chronicle, reported in May that Miller was academically ineligible and planned to attend junior college.
"We haven't lost Jessie," Donnan said. "I don't know how that came out. Jessie is in summer school. There's a question whether he's going to be eligible, but we don't know yet."
The 6-foot-1, 224-pound Miller played 10 games in 1999 as a reserve linebacker and had 12 tackles.
"Jessie is here, and he's fighting to stay here," Donnan said. "If he can't be eligible, then we'll look at it. But I don't like to talk about that until we know the facts."
Miller was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday. His mother, Karen Miller, said from her home Wednesday that her son is "trying to hang in there and stay in school."
"If he's ineligible, he might go to junior college," she said. "But he's got to decide pretty soon."
Donnan said he wasn't sure whether there will be any further academic casualties.
"You hope not, but there's no way we can tell," he said. "It's an age-old problem with every program. You always have guys that go to the limit."
Donnan is witnessing a groundswell of anticipation in making the booster-club rounds before fall drills begin Aug. 2, but he said the football fervor is nothing new.
"It's been a long time for Georgia people," said Donnan, who was in Macon on Tuesday night and still has Albany, Savannah, Jacksonville and Atlanta on the docket. "They're no different than they've ever been. This is my fifth year here. They've always been loyal, but I think there's kind of a sense of maybe we're getting closer. It's been a long time."
SPEAK NO EVIL:
Donnan said he doesn't preoccupy himself with the turf difficulties at Sanford Stadium.
"It's hard for me to sit around as a football coach and gripe about our field when people are farmers and all that in the real world," he said.
Drainage problems led to a recent $700,000 replacement of the stadium's playing field. Georgia officials expect it to be ready before the Bulldogs' Sept. 2 opener against Georgia Southern.
: Several preseason magazines are picking Georgia as a top-10 team and pronouncing the Bulldogs capable of conquering nemeses Florida and Tennessee.
Donnan's message to his team: What are you going to do about it?
"I like for our team to know what people are expecting of them," he said. "But at the same time, they also need to know they're going to earn that respect by going out and performing."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.
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