ATHENS, Ga. - Thomas Flowers has proven to Georgia coach Mark Richt that he can be a dependable punt returner after a shaky preseason.
The redshirt freshman from Austell, Ga., "really wanted it badly," Richt said, but had trouble with fumbles during camp.
That prompted Richt to tell Jon Fabris, the assistant in charge of the punt return team, that he didn't feel comfortable with Flowers.
"He came to me and wanted to plead his case and I just said 'We need to make this move,' " Richt said. "I said 'Don't lose heart, though. It may come around.' "
Said Flowers: "I guess they wanted to go with some more experience because that's a high-pressurized position."
After trying Tyson Browning and Tim Jennings as punt returner, Flowers, a 5-foot-10, 194-pound defensive back, has found a role. He returned two punts for 46 yards against Florida, including a 32-yard third quarter return.
"He's really taken advantage of it the second time around," Richt said.
At Arkansas, Flowers was drilled on a first quarter punt return when he didn't call for a fair catch.
The replay was shown later on the scoreboard repeatedly as the "Headache of the Game," sponsored by a pain reliever.
"I wasn't sweating that, that didn't faze me at all," Flowers said. "You can hit me all you want to. I'm going to bounce back up."
DOWNSIZING AT SAFETY: Hard-hitting safety Thomas Davis won't play Saturday because of a sprained right ankle and knee.
Tra Battle, who will get his first college start, is 50 pounds lighter.
Davis is listed at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Battle at 5-foot-11, 170-pounds.
"Battle does a good job but I doubt many people fear Battle coming to get (them)," Richt said. "You can make a tackle without getting the crowd to go `Woo!' all the time. He's a pretty good tackler but he's not the hitter that Thomas is."
Cornerback DeMario Minter insists Battle is a "headhunter," only lacking in weight.
"He'll come up and hit you and it might not hurt you, but you might feel it," Minter said. "It's like a little gnat."
RICHT ON SPURRIER: Steve Spurrier relished beating Georgia when he won six Southeasthern Conference championships as Florida coach from 1990 to 2001, but the Bulldogs won't be seeing him on the Gators sideline again after Spurrier announced that he won't return to his old job.
"It doesn't really surprise me either way," Richt said. "I thought he'd probably have first dibs at it. Now that he's decided not to pursue it, they can get their search on."
TWO-MINUTE DRILL: Georgia has notified football season ticketholders by mail about its procedures for ordering bowl tickets. From Nov. 8 to 19, season ticket holders can reserve priority tickets to any postseason games. Orders will be taken during that period by mail, online at www.georgiadogs.com, by phone or in person at the Butts-Mehre building. Only one order can be submitted for all postseason games. After the priority deadline, orders will be filled regardless of priority. ... With Tyson Browning out with an ankle injury, Battle will join Bryan McClendon on kickoff returns.
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