ATLANTA — Georgia will try to recover from its first 0-2 start in 15 years after losing a starting linebacker for the second straight week.
Coach Mark Richt says junior Christian Robinson, who hurt his left foot Saturday in a 45-42 loss to South Carolina, will miss at least two games. In last week’s loss to Boise State, Georgia lost starter Alec Ogletree for four to six weeks with a broken foot.
Robinson and Ogletree began the season as the starting inside linebackers. The position was thin even when the starters were healthy. Now it’s an area of critical concern.
“We’ve definitely got a challenge at the linebacker position right now,” Richt said Sunday.
Freshman Amarlo Herrera started at Ogletree’s spot. Options to replace Robinson include Jeremy Sulek, a senior walk-on, and junior Mike Gillard.
Richt said before the season Ogletree was one of the players Georgia could not afford to lose. Richt said the fill-ins played “pretty well” but were out of position at times.
Richt said Ogletree is better able to adjust to similar mistakes.
“He is just stronger and quicker and he plays with great game speed and we’re missing him right now, no doubt,” Richt said. “Now Christian being out for a while, somebody has to really get in there and be able to handle a lot of the communication issues and make some of the plays both of those guys were making.”
Despite the crisis at linebacker, Richt was generally upbeat after the Bulldogs fell to 0-2 for the first time since 1996, when it finished 5-6.
Georgia plays Coastal Carolina this week, giving the Bulldogs a chance to recover.
Georgia is a combined 0-5 against Top 25 teams in 2010 and 2011 and has lost 10 of its last 12 against ranked teams.
Georgia won Southeastern Conference championships under Richt in 2002 and 2005 and also played in the 2003 SEC championship game. The Bulldogs fell to 8-5 in 2009 and finished 6-7 in 2010, including a 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.
Georgia is 14-14 since the start of the 2009 season, leaving Richt’s future at the school a hot topic.
Sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes against South Carolina, but the Bulldogs were hurt by four turnovers. South Carolina returned a fumble and interception for touchdowns, set up another touchdown with a fumble return and also ran a fake punt for a touchdown.
“We just gave up too many big plays and those mistakes hurt us,” Murray said Saturday. “We can be a great football team. We have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but those four turnovers hurt us.”
A highlight for Georgia was freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 118 yards with a touchdown and also caught a scoring pass. Richt said his offensive and defensive lines improved.
“I do think we’re going to continue to get better as we go,” Richt said.
After Saturday’s loss, Richt said Georgia can still have “a heck of a football team.”
“We’ve definitely been through some really tough games, games that take a lot of guts, energy and games where you need the majority of things to go right to get the victories,” he said. “We lost and we understand that. But we’re going to be a good football team. We’re resilient enough to shake it off and make the corrections.”
Added Richt: “We will tweak a couple of things and be in good shape. The future is still very bright. We’ve just got to do things to get results on the scoreboard.”