ATHENS — They were quite a trio to behold, hanging out in shorts before Saturday’s game: A.J. Green, Tavarres King and Washaun Ealey. Each a potent offensive weapon on the Georgia football team. Each unable to play in the opener.
“We were just saying how much it was dwelling on us that we weren’t gonna be out there making plays on the field,” Ealey said.
Ealey and King are now back, having served one-game suspensions for arrests. But Georgia still awaits word on the status of its best offensive player, and one of the nation’s best, for Saturday’s showdown at South Carolina.
There was no update Monday on the status of Green, the receiver and All-American candidate. The junior did go through practice in full speed, and looked like the “same old A.J.,” according to quarterback Aaron Murray.
“It’d be nice to have him back out there,” Murray said. “He’s definitely chomping at the bit to get back out there. I don’t know anything that’s going on. But it’d be nice just to get it done with and get it out of the way and let him get out there and start making some plays for us.”
The Bulldogs did quite well without the three against Louisiana-Lafayette, scoring 55 points. But that included a defensive touchdown, and the offense benefited from good field position thanks to stellar defense and special teams.
The running game, in head coach Mark Richt’s words, was “good, not great.” Ealey’s return should help.
Ealey, the Bulldogs’ leading rusher last year, was arrested early on the morning of Aug. 27. He was charged with leaving the scene after hitting a parked car, which led to two more charges, for driving with a suspended license and failure to appear in court on a speeding ticket.
Ealey said he has since had his registration updated. As for his playing time, that remains an open question: Caleb King was named the starter before Ealey’s arrest, and Carlton Thomas had a good showing in the opener.
“I really haven’t been worrying about how much playing time I’m gonna get,” Ealey said. “I’ve just been worrying about getting on the field and helping my team win.”
Ealey was asked what he had learned after the arrest and suspension.
“Just that I’ve gotta put my priorities in the right place right now,” Ealey said. “And just be more mature about situations, and just keep working hard. Prepare myself for South Carolina.”
King, a sophomore, was named the team’s other starting receiver, opposite Green, after spring practice. He started nine games last year, hauling in 18 passes for 377 yards and a touchdown.
But in July he was cited for possession of alcohol. It was a minor misdemeanor, but King was also suspended for a game, and he admitted it was hard to have his name associated with an off-field incident.
“Definitely it is,” King said. “People make mistakes. Mistakes are gonna be made. But I took responsibility for my actions, and I’m not even thinking about that right now really. I’m just ready to move forward with life and help my team.”
But it hurt not being able to do that last Saturday.
“It was really tough,” he said. “You walk into Sanford Stadium and you’re not dressed. You’re not in pads. You see your teammates getting ready for a game that you should’ve been in. But it was extremely tough but I’m glad I’m back this week.”
Richt said King has looked more “tenacious” this summer, citing his blocking. King said he was using past Georgia receivers — Hines Ward, Mohamed Massaquoi — as a model for his blocking.
The Bulldogs have to wait on Green. In the meantime, with King’s return they at least give their freshman quarterback an additional target heading into Columbia.
“He had a great summer, a great camp,” Murray said of King. “It was a little hit what happened to him, but he still continued to work hard and push himself, day in and day out. He should have a big week. He’s pumped up, he’s excited, that he’s finally getting a chance to get back out there.”