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Blog: Samuel likely out rest of regular season after ankle surgery; Richt on kickoff coverage

Georgia tailback Richard Samuel is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks after undergoing surgery on his left ankle this morning, coach Mark Richt said.

That would knock the Bulldogs’ second leading rusher out for the rest of the regular season. The injury happened at the end of the Bulldogs’ 24-20 win over Florida Saturday in Jacksonville, a game in which Samuel rushed for a season-high 58 yards on a season-high 17 carries and scored the go-ahead score on a 4-yeard touchdown.

“Richard really had probably his finest performance in a really big game and for it to happen on the last play is just sad for him,” Richt said of the junior who returned to tailback this summer after being moved to linebacker. “Now he’s got to wait a little while to go do it ahead.”

Samuel’s injury leaves Georgia thin behind starter Isaiah Crowell, who has been bothered by nagging injuries throughout the season. The Bulldogs No. 2 tailback becomes Carlton Thomas and behind him is either former walk-on Brandon Harton or redshirt freshman Ken Malcome, who has one carry this season.

“Yeah, it’s open season,” Richt said of the No. 3 tailback spot. “Sure is.”

Richt was breif in his comments on Malcome:  “Ken is healthy. He pretty much knows what to do.”

Of the Samuel surgery, Richt said: “It probably will not slow down his rehab, it will probably speed up his rehab. Sometimes you can take a ligament and put it back in place and put a pin in there or a screw or whatever it is to hold it in place and it tends to be stable enough to rehab. Sometimes you’ll sit there and wait for that thing to heal on its own and you’ve got to stay off it longer. We think it will allow us to accelerate his rehab.”

Richt said coaches are challenging players who play more scrimmage downs to “get involved” in kickoff coverage.

“More than just the opening kickoff kind of deal,” Richt said. “There will be other guys involved personnel-wise.”

Georgia is 109th in the nation in kickoff return defense at 25 yards a return.

Richt said that Blair Walsh will continue to handle kickoffs.

“A lot of it became fundamental,” Richt said of the coverage. “Are you running as hard as you should be and are you avoiding blocks? The main thing is are you avoiding blocks properly?”

Offensive guard Dallas Lee’s broken leg will keep him out “four to six weeks,” Richt said.

Receiver Malcolm Mitchell isn’t expected to play Saturday against New Mexico State.

“I’d say the chance of Malcolm playing this week will be close to zero,” Richt said. “I don’t think Malcolm will play.”

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