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SEC NOTEBOOK: A.J. Green's injury to test Dogs' depth at WR

ATHENS -- Georgia probably picked a good week to be without the Southeastern Conference's leading receiver.

A.J. Green, who leads the conference with 44 catches and 732 yards receiving, will miss Saturday's game against FCS opponent Tennessee Tech after suffering a rib injury in last week's loss to Florida.

Coach Mark Richt said Tuesday he hopes Green will return for the Bulldogs' Nov. 14 game against Auburn. Richt says Green's injury could be a long-term benefit for the team if another receiver emerges against Tennessee Tech.

Richt said Tennessee Tech is ''bent on stopping your run game,'' which could create opportunities for big pass plays.

''Those guys are going to have to make plays, and I'm hoping that they do make plays and gain confidence,'' Richt said.

Quarterback Joe Cox said a candidate to take advantage of the opportunity is freshman Rantavious Wooten, who has only four catches for 91 yards.

''It seems like every week this year he has gotten better and better,'' Cox said. ''You can see in practice the plays he makes, and I think he is ready to step up and be a guy that can make plays. I think he definitely is going to be one of the guys that fills in for A.J. this week.''

Curran named semifinalist for Bednarik Award

Georgia junior linebacker Rennie Curran has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, according to an announcement from the Maxwell Football Club on Wednesday.

The Bednarik Award is given annually to the nation's Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year.

The announcement of the will be broadcast on ESPN on Dec. 10. Three finalists for the award will be announced on Nov. 23 and a second round of voting will take place at that time.

Curran, a 5-11, 222-pound Brookwood grad, is second in the Southeastern Conference with 79 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He is averaging 9.9 tackles per game and has led the Bulldogs in all eight of their games.

Former Bulldog two-time All-American Davey Pollack, a Shiloh grad, is the only Georgia player to ever win the award after being named the 2004 recipient.

Getting the QB

Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes was yelling a cautionary ''screen'' to remind his fellow defenders to be on the lookout for a pass to the running back in last week's game against Mississippi. Antonio Coleman waved him off.

''A.C. looked back at me and said, 'Nah, forget the screen. I'm going to go get this quarterback,''' Bynes said. ''The next play, he got the sack. From then on, all our whole defensive line thought about was getting to their quarterback.

The Tigers sacked Jevan Snead four times and pressured him seven times. Coleman had two sacks, four tackles for loss and four hurries.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik called it the best game of the year for the defensive front of Antoine Carter, Mike Blanc and Jake Ricks.

''They're working better together now,'' Chizik said. ''There's some continuity there now.''

Sizzling returns

Trying to avoid kicking the ball to Vanderbilt's fabulous freshman Warren Norman is proving to be quite a problem.

Coach Bobby Johnson said teams have been kicking away from Norman for several games, and No. 10 Georgia Tech was trying to do the same thing last weekend when the freshman returned a squib kick 80 yards for a touchdown.

Norman has matched Willie Gault as the only SEC players with three kickoff returns for touchdowns in a season. Gault did it for Tennessee in 1980. Norman has three more games left to take the record to himself starting Saturday night at No. 1 Florida.

''He just sees everything that's happening in front of him,'' Johnson said. ''Even when he's getting the ball in the backfield as a running back he sees holes where a lot of people just sort of run down the field, he's always searching. His feet are never very high off the ground. He's able to put that foot in the ground and really make a lot.''

Norman already has the Vanderbilt season record for return yards with 852, and he needs only 51 for the SEC's season mark of 903 set by Dennis Johnson of Arkansas last season.

Norman's seven touchdowns lead the Commodores.

Running through pain

Despite running on a sore knee all season, Tennessee's Montario Hardesty still ranks among the SEC's rushing leaders.

The New Bern, N.C., native currently ranks 19th in the nation and fourth in the SEC with 105.1 yards rushing per game. He's averaging 5 yards per carry and has eight touchdowns for the season.

Hardesty is on pace to finish with 1,261 yards this season, which would rank as the sixth best single-season performance by a Tennessee tailback.

Hardesty rests his knee when the Volunteers work on turf in their inside facility. He sometimes has to come out for a play or two during games.

By the time the trainer gets to me to say he's out, he's already back in. That speaks for him,'' coach Lane Kiffin said. ''He's really been a warrior, really fought through injuries.''