ATHENS, Ga. — Knowshon Moreno can walk into bookstores around the South and have a lot of Knowshons looking back.
Georgia’s sophomore tailback has graced recent covers of The Sporting News, ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. He has been solo on all three fronts except for SI, which he shares with junior quarterback Matthew Stafford and senior middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
“They’re all pretty sweet, and they’re all cool,” Moreno said Tuesday. “I probably like the one with Stafford and Ellerbe the best.”
Moreno may be the face of the top-ranked Bulldogs as they prepare to host Georgia Southern this Saturday, but he also has been the poster child for an injury-riddled preseason camp. He was among more than 20 players sidelined at one point with various setbacks, and that hindered an offense looking to build on last season, when the Bulldogs scored more than 40 points four times in their final six games.
Injuries are never a plus, but they temporarily changed the subject from the first preseason No. 1 ranking in program history.
“When we got into camp, I thought we started out with the normal amount of energy, excitement and enthusiasm, and then we just hit the injury bug a little more than we have,” coach Mark Richt said. “The camp was a little bit different than some of our others in that it was frustrating for us not to have the players there to practice and evaluate as much as we wanted to, especially up front.
“We didn’t have many (linemen) last year, but those guys stayed together from the spring through fall camp and almost throughout the entire season. We’ve been juggling more up front this camp than we did all last year put together on the offensive line.”
The Bulldogs sustained three season-ending injuries this month, with the most notable being starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant (knee). Reserve linebacker Charles White (Achilles’ tendon) and reserve guard Chris Little (foot) were the other two.
“That definitely slowed the media’s talk about our expectations,” Stafford said. “It’s been a long offseason, and a lot of talk is going on about our football team. I think we’re just excited to get out there and actually play some games.”
The only question about Georgia Southern posed to Richt in 30 minutes concerned the awkwardness that might be present if former Bulldogs defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder still coached the Eagles, but there were some depth-chart moves of note.
Kris Durham, a junior from Calhoun, has moved back in front of senior Kenneth Harris as the starting split end in a two-receiver set. Senior Jarius Wynn is listed ahead of junior Roderick Battle at one defensive end, and, in a battle of junior cornerbacks, Bryan Evans has moved back ahead of Prince Miller.
“They’ve been going back and forth, and I’m not sure that’s the way it’s going to start out,” Richt said of the Evans-Miller race. “You guys worry too much about the depth chart, I think. Now, the starting quarterback — I can see that, but these guys are all going to play.”
With the season opener days away, Richt believes the ranking has provided positive publicity and motivation. He is concerned, however, about the attention Moreno and Stafford are receiving, which he compared to the rock-star status that surrounded quarterback David Greene and defensive end David Pollack earlier this decade.
“They’re going to get that attention whether I like it or not,” Richt said. “I think the thing they have to manage is getting a little bit of privacy and a little bit of peace, because sometimes it does get a little bit insane. Everywhere you go, somebody wants a picture or somebody wants an autograph from you.
“Even when it comes to friends, it’s hard to know who your friends are because a lot of people want that association.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...