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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Practice Notes: Smith Wants Bigger Role on Offense

All season, he’s been Georgia’s secret weapon on offense, but Branden Smith is hoping his role on that side of the ball can continue to expand in Georgia’s bowl game and beyond.

Used primarily as a reserve cornerback, Smith has done a little of everything in his freshman season – returning kicks, running the Wild Cat, playing wide receiver and working out of the backfield. That role on the offensive side of the ball is something he’d like to do more of starting with Georgia’s bowl game against Texas A&M.

“I really hope so,” Smith said. “I would like to play offense a lot more during the bowl game. I think I deserve it. Our offense has been on a roll, so I really hope they use me more on offense.”

Smith finished the season with 17 carries for 211 yards rushing and two catches for seven yards, including two big plays for touchdowns against South Carolina and Tennessee Tech.

The problem, however, has been Smith’s ball handling. He has two fumbles on special teams this season that were recovered by the opposition and he has put the ball on the ground on offense as well. So despite his tremendous athleticism, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he’s not ready to hand the ball to Smith with regularity until his fumbling problems are under control.

“He’s got to hang on to the ball,” Bobo said. “If he hangs on to the ball, he’ll get more of a role. Right now, laying it on the ground, he’s a bit more limited. We’ll still have things this game, but he’s got to hang on to the football to be able to carry the football.”

Beyond holding on to the football, Smith faces the challenge of adjusting to a new defensive coordinator and secondary coach next season, and his time on the defensive side of the ball had already been limited so he could work with the offense, too.

But while this season hasn’t been perfect, Smith has shown he can be a dangerous weapon in all three aspects of the game, and that’s something he expects to continue.

“I have high expectations for myself,” Smith said. “I think I played pretty good, but not as good as I expected. Next year I’m going to be coming into the season with my mind set and my goals high.”

DAVIS SPRAINS ANKLE

Heralded as one of the saviors of Georgia’s running game, right tackle Josh Davis could be in jeopardy of missing the Independence Bowl with a sprained ankle.

Davis, who was inserted into the starting lineup against Vanderbilt, helped revitalize Georgia’s offensive line and sparked a renewed rushing attack, but injured his ankle during Wednesday’s practice. He has not practiced since, but head coach Mark Richt said the team is hopeful that Davis will be able to play by the time the Bulldogs hit the field against Texas A&M on Dec. 28.

“He’s not practicing right now but the good news is that there’s a lot of time between now and then and no other obligations but to get treatment two or three times a day,” Richt said. “We’re all hopeful.”

Clint Boling opened the season at right tackle but has since moved to the left side, meaning Justin Anderson or Vince Vance would be the likely replacements if Davis is unable to play.

“Right now I think we’d put Vince in there first, but that doesn’t mean that’s how it will go,” Richt said. “But between Vince and (Anderson), that would be the next logical choice.”

GEATHERS ON THE GO?

Richt has lauded freshman defensive tackle Kwame Geathers for his efforts to get his body into shape this season, and Geathers even earned the defensive scout team player of the year award at the Bulldogs’ annual end-of-season gala, but defensive tackles coach Rodney Garner said the future remains a bit unclear for the freshman.

Geathers arrived late this fall after a delay in his academic qualification by the NCAA and he struggled badly with his conditioning early on. He has shed more than 35 pounds from his frame since then, however, and Garner said Geathers is ready for playing time next year. He’s just not sure whether that action will come on offense or defense.

“I think Kwame’s worked really hard,” Garner said. “He’s a great young man. We’ve just got to find a spot that he can help the team the quickest.”

Asked if that meant a transition to the offensive line could be in store for Geathers, Garner said it was a possibility, but nothing had been determined so far.

“He could play anywhere,” Garner said. “We’ve just got to find the best place for him and wherever is the best place for the team.”

MAKING THE GRADE

While fall semester grades are still trickling in for Georgia’s players, Richt said he doesn’t anticipate any problems among the team in remaining eligible to play in the bowl game.

“I’ve heard no concern that we’re on the ropes with anybody,” Richt said. “Usually by now if there was something cooking I would have heard something from an academic counselor that we’re waiting on this one with pins and needles. I don’t think we’re in that situation.”

9 comments:

theworldaccordingtojennifer said...

Smith thinks he "deserves" to play more on offense? Not sure I like the fact that not only does he think that way but that he feels comfortable articulating it out loud.

Lawrence said...

Wow, we need OL, but geez we really need DT next year. I just cannot see Geathers playing anywhere else.

WFdawg said...

Brandon, try these words instead: "I still feel terrible about my game-changing fumble in the second half against Kentucky. It's absolutely understandable that I would play a diminished role in the offense, given my inability to hang onto the ball. I'm dedicating myself from this point forward to improving my ball security in hopes that I can help the team." Sheesh.

UGA69Dawg said...

Not to be negative but it seems our coaches have a hard time putting players in one position and letting them learn that position. We've had talent come through UGA in the last 8 years that never got significant playing time because they were moved from one position to another over and over. Make up your minds and coach them up but stop the uh we're not sure what position he'll play.

Anonymous said...

ditto uga69 and lawrence. Aren't we losing three senior DTs? Kwame is progressing quickly and could play either side of the ball, and the coaches are considering him playing OL where we've got a bunch of depth. Makes much more sense to me to play him at DT where we've only got Tyson and Jones with any experience next season.

C'mon coaches, don't ruin another career by putting a youngster at the wrong position(Brandon Miller, Kiante Tripp, Richard Samuel).

Dawgfan17 said...

I like getting the ball in Smith's hands when we can as he has gamebreaking speed, but next year we need him to be a top level corner more than we need his offense so I hope he concentrates on that and keeps offense as his side job. Also can't see how we can afford to move anyone away from the DT spot at this point with what we are losing, maybe just Garner's way of trying to keep him motivated.

Acworth Dawg said...

I have to agree with Jennifer. I understand the kids wanting to do more. But they don't seem to realize that they have to earn it and what that means. Maybe this is a sign of the times and the what kids are raised, I don't know.

But when I hear comments like this from our players, it really makes me wonder.

David, you are about as close to the program as anyone. Do you think in general there is an unproductive bad attitude on the team?

Thanks and keep up the great work.

David Hale said...

Acworth -- I think with Branden, it's more confidence than a bad attitude. I understand the uneasiness about his "deserves" comment, but I think it's simply a matter of him being eager and confident, which isn't a bad thing. He's not sulking or anything like that. If that were to happen, then yeah, I'd say it was a problem. But so far, I haven't seen anything of the sort.

Phil said...

David,

I was reading the Telegraph this morning and read all of your sections on the Dawgs plus an article on Texas A&M. To me, judging by what I've seen and read, A&M definitely "wants this game more". Now that may not translate into a W for them, but it certainly makes them more dangerous. Apparently they are a very young team and have a mediocre record, but there is a lot of talent there and they have shown flashes of being great one day (sound like a team you may know?).

My concern is that we may not be taking this game as seriously as we need to be. What have you seen and observed (at practice, in the press conferences, etc.) regarding our motivation and level of preparation?