ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Two of Georgia’s defensive standouts are possibly in limbo. Coach Mark Richt isn’t saying one way or the other.
Richt still won’t confirm whether linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo will be suspended when the No. 6 Bulldogs open their season Saturday against Buffalo.
And Richt seems to be enjoying keeping everyone in suspense. When asked Tuesday what he expected Saturday from the two defensive leaders, Richt said “I just think we’ll just have to wait and see.”
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Richt then smiled and said “Time will tell.”
Georgia is a big favorite against Buffalo this week, but the depth-sapping suspensions would be of more concern when the Bulldogs open their Southeastern Conference schedule at Missouri on Sept. 8.
Rambo led the SEC with eight interceptions last season.
Alan Ingram, Rambo’s coach at Seminole County High School in Donalsonville, Ga., said in March Rambo failed a drug test after he inadvertently ate marijuana-laced brownies.
Ogletree led Georgia with three forced fumbles last season. He reportedly faces a suspension for violation of team rules.
Georgia’s depth chart released on Tuesday continued to list Rambo and Ogletree as starters.
Linebacker Mike Gilliard said Georgia is preparing to play without Ogletree.
Asked how long Ogletree will be out, Gilliard said “I’m not sure. I just know that however long he is out, those other guys have to play.”
Rambo was suspended from the 2011 season opener for what Ingram said was another inadvertent brush with marijuana. A second failed drug test could bring a four-game suspension.
Rambo returned last season to land a spot on The Associated Press All-America team.
Georgia already has announced two suspensions. Starting cornerback Sanders Commings was suspended for two games following his arrest in January on a domestic violence charge. Backup linebacker Chase Vasser also has a two-game suspension following his DUI arrest in Atlanta on May 11.
Those suspensions were announced because laws were broken, not team rules.
A Georgia coach can keep quiet on team violations to avoid a competitive disadvantage with opposing teams.
“Why let them know what your problems are?” asked athletic director Greg McGarity.
“If it is a law enforcement issue, an arrest or a DUI, something that breaks the law, then we feel there’s an obligation to follow through with an explanation of what the penalty would be or what the consequences are.
“We feel like if team policies or team rules or our own institutional rules or policies have been violated, that’s up to the coach to make the determination when to announce when or if there are any suspensions.”
Richt said his decision to avoid commenting on some personnel situations marks a change in his approach. He stopped short of saying it a policy change.
“Well, you know what, I don’t know if there’s anything etched in stone but we are handling it a little bit different this year,” Richt said. “I guess I don’t know if I can even say why. But we are, we’re definitely handling it just a little bit different.”
Defensive tackle John Jenkins said the loss of a player to a suspension is the same as with an injury in that it creates an opportunity for another player.
“It has always been like that,” Jenkins said. “We had, what, 11 different starting linemen last year. So it just goes to show we’ve been hit with adversity numerous occasions and we’ve been able to overcome it. The guys that are out, from me to them, get back soon and be ready to come back. We’re going to be able to handle our business.”
Richt moved Malcolm Mitchell from wide receiver to cornerback in spring practice to help the team adjust to losing Commings for two games. Mitchell may play on offense and defense.
Georgia lists sophomore Connor Norman as Rambo’s top backup. Senior Christian Robinson would be the likely fill-in for Ogletree.
Robinson said Georgia has enough depth to overcome suspensions. He said the Bulldogs survived a more severe crisis at inside linebacker last season after losing two starters.
“We have a lot of young guys who have gotten a lot of reps,” Robinson said. “We might be short in some areas, but guys have stepped up.
“I think with what we’re going through right now, we’ll be able to come out of it better because of it, especially when we get in the gauntlet of the SEC schedule.”