ATHENS — An NCAA committee will hear an appeal by Georgia star receiver A.J. Green to reduce his four-game suspension on Friday.
School spokesman Claude Felton said the appeal will be heard over a conference call, making it possible that Green could return Saturday when Georgia (1-1) faces No. 12 Arkansas in a crucial Southeastern Conference game.
Green already has missed the Bulldogs' first two games for selling an Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to someone deemed an agent by the NCAA. Georgia easily won its opener, 55-7 over Louisiana-Lafayette, but dropped its first SEC game at South Carolina, 17-6.
Asked if he's looking to get a ruling in the case before kickoff, coach Mark Richt said, "I can only hope that."
Georgia, which dropped out of The Associated Press rankings with its loss to the Gamecocks, has been preparing this week as if Green won't be able to play. He's been at practice but not working as much with the first team as he normally would.
"It's not as big an issue this week," Richt said Wednesday evening after the Bulldogs practiced for more than two hours. "The other two games, we were really hopeful but weren't really sure until late in the week both weeks. This week, we start on the premise that he can't play. Then if he can play, good."
Former North Carolina and Marshall player Chris Hawkins bought Green's jersey, Atlanta-based attorney Page Pate said.
While the transaction led to Green's suspension, Pate — who is representing Hawkins in another matter — said Hawkins has "never seen himself as an agent."
In an interview with ESPN.com last week, Hawkins said he paid Green $1,000 for the jersey as a collector.
Green's teammates would get a huge emotional boost if their top player returns for the Arkansas game, especially coming off the disappointment of losing the SEC opener. Cornerback Vance Cuff said it could have the same effect as Georgia surprisingly coming out in black jerseys for a game against Auburn in 2007.
"When he makes plays, it makes me want to make plays," Cuff said. "He's just that type of guy. It's a weapon you've got to respect. We've still got good receivers, but the other coaches, they just respect A.J. a little more than other guys. Playing with him is definitely a plus. It's like five pluses, to tell you the truth."
Tight end Aron White acknowledged the Bulldogs would definitely be a stronger team if Green plays.
"Anytime you have A.J. on the field, you're going to be a better team. I don't care who it is — an NFL team, whatever," White said. "He's a tremendous player with an amazing amount of ability."
That said, the Bulldogs must be prepared to win without Green. The team can hardly afford an 0-2 start in SEC play, especially with teams such as Florida looming on the schedule.
"Right now, as it stands, he's not playing this weekend," White said. "If things change, that's great. But right now, we have to attack the game plan like he's not going to be there. Hopefully they'll come back with a ruling that's favorable and he's back out there. But it's not something we can bank on.
"We're still the Bulldogs, with or without A.J."
NOTES: Two-way player Branden Smith is questionable after suffering concussion-like symptoms when he got knocked out of bounds in Tuesday's practice, Richt said. Smith has rushed for 17 yards, caught one pass and had 55 yards on punt returns, as well as made six tackles and broken up a pass playing defensive back. ... If Smith can't go, running back Carlton Thomas or receiver Logan Gray would likely take over the return duties.