These days, Herschel Walker is the only one around here whose thumb is pointing skyward.

"Right now, we say things like, 'We Shall Overcome' and 'Pick Up the Slack,' " said Georgia Coach Vince Dooley. "But the reality will set in on third and one when we fail and have to punt."

When Walker broke his thumb on a routine practice play 11 days ago, team doctors placed the thumb in a cast and said he would miss three to six weeks. That meant no Clemson next Monday night, no Brigham Young Sept. 11, probably no Heisman in his junior year.

Pins were inserted in the thumb and reserve Carnie Norris was inserted into the tailback spot.

The good folk of Georgia then reacted with remedies that were as certain to heal the thumb as Walker was certain to gain 150 yards a game.

One lady said to soak the thumb in turpentine twice a day. Someone else recommended laser beams. Another, shock treatment. Another, DMSO.

Walker now says, "I think I can play against Clemson next Monday night. I'd like to. The thumb doesn't hurt. I guess I'll just have to wait until Monday night and see how it feels."

"We're hoping that maybe since Herschel is a super athlete," said trainer Warren Morris, "that maybe he can recover faster than most human beings."

To many Georgians, team physician Dr. William Mulherin has become a carpetbagger. His words steal Herschel away.

"My stand is that he shouldn't play," said Mulherin. "Ideally, he should have three weeks at the very least before he could take a blow. And you know against Clemson, he'll take many blows. The risk of reinjury is high. It could cost us another four-five weeks for recuperation.

"We could create a rubberized cast, but it would be malleable and the thumb could move and be reinjured. He shouldn't play," the doctor said.

By 9 p.m. Monday, scheduled start of Georgia against Clemson, the defending national champion, the thumb will have had, by Dooley's mathematics, 16 days and five hours to mend. "A healthy Herschel would mean a lot. A Herschel in this condition would mean only a little," said Dooley.

With the possibility that Walker will not play, thoughts of peril are circulating at Georgia, whose football team was national champion in 1980 and went 10-2 in '81.

The Bulldogs were hurt worse than most at graduation. Wide receiver Lindsay Scott now is with the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Buck Belue is playing AA baseball.

"That was only 100 percent of our offense last year; the Big Three," said Offensive Coordinator George Haffner.

"No, replacing Herschel is nothing special," said Norris, the senior tailback who gained a total of 310 yards last year. Against Ole Miss, Walker gained 265 yards. He gained 1,891 yards in all. "This is our chance to show we are more than a one-man team."

"Carnie is a good back caught up in a difficult comparison," said Dooley. ("The difference between them is the difference between 4.3 and 4.7 in the 40," said Haffner.)

Junior John Lastinger is a quarterback of 18 college passes; seven completed, nine intercepted. Statistics of excellence these are not. But Lastinger was impressive in the spring and fall practices.

"Losing Herschel, it was kind of shocking," Lastinger said. "I know it will put more pressure on me. I'm trying to block it all out. It's true I haven't had much game experience, but I'm not naive to the game."

Dooley said he expects some mistakes from his quarterback, but not many.

"He will do the job," said Dooley.

The defense, which ranked No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference last year in points limited (8.9 per game), is again strong. Yet, there are injuries. Jimmy Payne has a sore shoulder. Junior linebacker Tommy Thurson has a ruptured disc. Both are listed as questionable for Clemson.

And the most horrific thing of all as far as Dooley is concerned? Freshman Tony Flack will start at right cornerback. "In 19 years, I've never started a freshman at the start of the season," said the coach. "Not even Herschel."

And in these wee days of the 1982 preseason, Dooley insists on turning the phrase, 'How Bout Them Dawgs,' from an exclamation into a question. The fact is, there is a reason for Georgia being ranked No. 4, No. 6 or No. 8 in so many polls. There is talent here.

It is a team full of players full of venom over the two losses of 1981. In the third week, at Clemson, Georgia committed nine turnovers and lost the nation's longest winning streak, the No. 1 ranking and the game, 13-3.

The players also remember Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino throwing a desperation 33-yard pass with 35 seconds left in the Sugar Bowl. Tight end John Brown caught the pass and Pittsburgh caught and passed Georgia, 24-20.

"I still have dreams about that," said Radloff. "One play. Over. Unbelievable," said Lastinger.

Now, these Dawgs begin anew. As always, the focus is on Herschel.

"You have to realize, the thumb is not only important to a running back," said trainer Morris, "it is important to homo sapiens.

"Can Herschel play? Yes. Is it dangerous for him to play? Yes.

"Will Herschel play?" said Morris, finally arriving at the question being asked from here to Clemson to the Downtown Athletic Club. "That is something only God and Herschel know."