ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday tailback Todd Gurley is "real close" to returning from sprained left ankle.
Gurley has missed two straight games, including the Bulldogs' 41-26 loss to Missouri on Saturday that dropped Georgia eight spots to No. 15 in The Associated Press Top 25.
The loss left Georgia (4-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) needing a quick recovery when it plays at Vanderbilt this week. Gurley could help Georgia stay close to the top of the SEC East race, but Richt said he'll make sure the sophomore is fully recovered from the injury.
"I think what we want is a really healthy Todd Gurley," Richt said. "We want him to be at his best. We don't want him to go in there without being full speed because if you do it's not really safe for him. It also can cause another setback that might set him down even longer.
"Whenever he looks healthy enough and feels healthy enough, we'll play him."
Gurley leads Georgia with 450 yards rushing and four touchdowns in four games. He had 1,385 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns as a freshman.
Richt wouldn't say if Gurley's injury is a high ankle sprain. "I'll say this: He's close. He's real close," Richt said.
The Bulldogs have lost their other top tailback, Keith Marshall, and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley to season-ending knee injuries. Another top receiver, Michael Bennett, missed the Missouri game following arthroscopic knee surgery and isn't expected to play this week.
Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas combined to run for 157 yards against the Tigers. Douglas led the Bulldogs with six receptions for 43 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown catch.
Georgia was hurt by four turnovers in its first home loss since 2011, including two interceptions and a lost fumble by quarterback Aaron Murray.
The final score seemed to indicate another disastrous performance by the defense, which began the day last in the SEC with its average of 32.2 points allowed. A closer look reveals blame should be shared.
Punter Collin Barber was replaced after averaging only 32 yards on two punts. Barber had a 30-yard punt on the first play of the second quarter that put the defense in a difficult starting spot near midfield. A 52-yard touchdown drive gave Missouri a 14-7 lead.