ATHENS — Mark Richt’s only concern about Georgia’s new star Knowshon Moreno is the freshman’s heavy workload in rushing for 541 yards the last three games.
That could change if Thomas Brown returns from an injury for next Saturday’s game against Auburn.
That’s good news for Richt, but the return of Brown also could create a delicate dilemma for the Georgia coach.
Brown started the first six games, rushing for 413 yards.
What happens when Richt has to determine the split of carries for Moreno, a freshman who ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in rushing, and Brown, a respected senior leader with 26 career starts?
"I don’t know that yet," Richt said Sunday. "A lot of it depends on how (Brown) comes back. I’m not going to try to predict anything right now."
Brown says Moreno hasn’t peaked.
For a Georgia team with SEC championship hopes, that’s very good news.
Moreno helped No. 10 Georgia continue its momentum for the visit from No. 18 Auburn by rushing for 196 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-34 victory over Troy on Saturday.
Moreno has set career rushing highs in three straight games, running for 157 yards against Vanderbilt and 188 yards with three touchdowns against Florida before the Troy game.
Moreno, who has 1,003 yards rushing, has joined Herschel Walker as the only freshmen in school history to rush for 1,000 yards. Can he continue to improve?
"Yeah, I think he will," Richt said. "We’re blocking better and better. He’s reading things better and better."
Richt’s only worry is Moreno’s high number of carries in his 100-yard games: 26 against Troy, 33 against Florida and 28 against Vanderbilt.
Brown’s return from a collarbone injury this week would give the Bulldogs (7-2 overall, 4-2 SEC) better depth for its championship run.
Richt said he will know more about Brown’s status after Tuesday’s practice.
"Thomas is coming right along," Richt said. "He’s definitely got a chance to play in this one. I think he’s motivated to. ... Tuesday it will be interesting to see.
"We’re going to start working him this week as if he’s got a shot."
Moreno was leading the team in rushing, but averaging only 77 yards per game, when playing behind Brown. He now is averaging 111.4 per game, third in the SEC.
Moreno’s highlight against Troy was an 80-yard touchdown run, the longest for the Bulldogs in 10 years.
"But even if you take that away, it’s still another 100-yard game," Richt said.
With Brown out, Moreno’s top backup against Troy was senior walk-on Jason Johnson, who had six carries for 15 yards.
Georgia leads the SEC East but would lose a tie-breaker with Tennessee if each team wins its remaining conference games.
"It’s great to be in this position this time of the year," Richt said. "When we play Saturday ... in essence we’re still playing for the opportunity to win the Eastern Division."
Moreno has helped Georgia score 86 points the last two weeks. The Bulldogs have topped 40 points in four games.
Richt said a young offensive line is improving with Moreno.
"We’re starting to play better," Richt said. "We’re starting to block better. That’s the big key. When you start to give the running back a little more space, that makes a big difference."
Notes: Georgia senior linebacker and special teams player Chris Gaunder is not expected to return from a right knee injury before a bowl game. "We’re not going to count him out for the year, but it won’t be in the regular season," Richt said. Defensive tackle Kade Weston (ankle) won’t practice Monday but has a good chance of playing against Auburn, according to Richt. Quarterback Matthew Stafford took a hit to his knee but had little swelling on Sunday and is not expected to have any limitations in practice, Richt said.