Georgia hopes healthy Gibson can spark offense
ATHENS, Ga. -- It may not be a shock that Georgia ranks only 70th in the nation in scoring offense.
After all, Coach Mark Richt lost his entire starting offensive line, leading rusher Musa Smith and leading receiver Terrence Edwards from last year's Southeastern Conference championship team.
But one loss Richt didn't count on was not having big-play receiver Fred Gibson for most of his team's last two games with a hamstring injury.
Now Gibson is back in the starting lineup for No. 11 Georgia's home game against Alabama on Saturday, and Richt hopes the return of the junior sparks the offense.
"We're probably as healthy now as we've been all season," Richt said. "(Gibson) seems to be running full-speed."
Gibson looked strong while catching four passes for 104 yards with a touchdown in the season-opening win at Clemson, followed by five catches for 81 yards against Middle Tennessee State.
While returning a kickoff late in the win over Middle Tennessee State, Gibson suffered a pulled hamstring. He tried to return the following week against South Carolina but quickly aggravated the injury after making his only catch of the game.
There was reason to second-guess Richt's decisions to have Gibson on the field so late in the 29-10 win, then allow him to return the following week.
Gibson did not play in the 17-10 loss at Louisiana State two weeks ago, then had an off week to give the hamstring more time to heal.
Against Alabama Saturday, the only change in Richt's plans for Gibson will be to give him more rest. Richt hopes to have enough depth to play more receivers, giving such players as freshman Sean Bailey more time.
"Fatigue is what causes those sorts of injuries like what Fred had, so we're going to look to make sure he can stay fresh and avoid fatigue injuries down the road," Richt said.
Gibson returned to practice Monday and said he has experienced no setbacks.
"I feel pretty good about this weekend," Gibson said, adding he has participated in "most of the things everybody else did" in practice.
Receivers coach John Eason says Gibson has gained momentum through the week.
"I think each day he's feeling better," Eason said. "Hopefully, by this weekend he'll be ready to go full strength."
Though Gibson says he is running at full speed, Eason said Gibson "is still tentative" on some plays.
Georgia has been boosted by what appears to be a breakthrough season for Reggie Brown in the first four games, but the Bulldogs need the additional deep threat to stretch the field against Alabama.
"Fred has been our biggest play-maker the last two years," quarterback David Greene said. "Fred or Reggie can go deep, but we need Fred in there."
The off week also allowed starting tight end Ben Watson and tailback Tony Milton to return from injuries.
The offense obviously missed the starters against LSU, when it set season lows with 97 yards rushing and 10 points.
Alabama may stack its defense to stop Georgia's run game, which could be a dangerous strategy if Gibson is left in man-to-man coverage.
Asked if anyone has tried that strategy against him this season, Gibson laughed and said "Clemson did."
On Georgia's first possession of the season, Gibson burned Clemson with a 56-yard touchdown catch.
Gibson said he can't worry about aggravating the injury.
"I'm not going to try to do anything different than I normally do," he said. "I've got to cut the same way and do the same things."
Added Gibson: "I just have to go play football and have fun."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- Longhorns 'shocked, upset' by resignation
- UW coach: Rules claims are 'untrue attacks'
- Report: BC, ND in talks to play at Fenway Park
- Bama LB Dickson suspended for Sugar Bowl