ATHENS — Georgia defensive tackle Jeff Owens will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season, making the senior the second starting lineman lost by the top-ranked Bulldogs in the past month.
Owens tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Saturday's 45-21 win over Georgia Southern. Coach Mark Richt said Sunday that Owens will have season-ending surgery.
Georgia lost starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant from its offensive line during preseason practice.
"At this rate we won't last very long," Richt said. "We can't afford much more there. I think we've got pretty good depth still at both spots if you're thinking about trying to finish out the season, but much more trouble there and we might really get thin."
Georgia senior Corvey Irvin will join junior Geno Atkins as the starting defensive tackles Saturday against Central Michigan.
Irvin had a sack and shared the team lead with six tackles, including two for losses, against Georgia Southern. Atkins had four stops.
"Corvey actually played an outstanding ballgame," Richt said. "He played the most snaps of the interior linemen and had the most production. Geno didn't play as many snaps but was probably as productive per play."
Irvin has never started for Georgia, but he played in 12 games last season after transferring from Georgia Military College.
Defensive tackle Kade Weston, expected to be the team's top backup, missed the opener with a sprained knee and is not expected to play next Saturday against Central Michigan.
Owens started every game last season.
Richt said Owens has been scheduled for reconstructive knee surgery on Sept. 9 and plans to return for his fifth year of eligibility in 2009. He played in all 13 games as a freshman and can have a medical redshirt year this season.
Richt said he has no doubt Owens, who already had been projected as a possible high pick in the 2009 NFL draft, will return next season.
"Oh yeah, I don't think there would be any question about that," Richt said. "He knows it could be a blessing in the long run if he rehabs well and gets maybe even in better condition than he was this year. So he's looking at the bright side right now."
Georgia will depend on sophomores Brandon Wood and Ricardo Crawford and freshman DeAngelo Tyson for depth behind Irvin and Atkins.
Georgia's offensive line will receive a boost in depth with this week's return of starter Clint Boling, who was suspended by Richt for the opener.
After losing Sturdivant, Georgia had four new starters on its offensive line in the opener, including freshman guard Cordy Glenn.
Richt said Boling would move to the right side of the line and Josh Davis, who started at right tackle, will move back to left tackle, where he will compete with Kiante Tripp for a starting job.
"Offensively it will be good to have Clint back in the lineup," Richt said. "That will help."
Boling made 11 starts as a freshman last season, 10 at right guard and one at right tackle.
Richt said Boling, Glenn and Ben Harden will compete for the two starting jobs at right guard and right tackle.
The offensive line is still inexperienced, but the return of Boling gives the unit more depth than Georgia has at defensive tackle.
"We're hoping to go into this ballgame with eight or nine guys who could play," Richt said of the offensive line. "That's not bad."