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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Practice Notes: Green Wants to Return Punts

By Fletcher Page

Georgia quarterback Logan Gray isn’t the only player garnering attention during spring practice for work on the punt return team.

A.J. Green, Bulldogs star receiver, threw his name in the mix Saturday. Green was seen fielding punts during drills, and said he is gunning for the starting job.

“Yeah, I was talking to coach [Mark] Richt the other day about returning punts and having me back there,” he said. “It’s something I did in high school.”

It’s something Green did very well in high school. He scored 12 touchdowns as a returner at Summerville High, in South Carolina.

Green has yet to return a punt in a game at the college level. But he said he’s taken part in punt return drills in practice since a freshman. And he wants to get the ball in his hands any way possible.

“Yeah, I hope,” he said. “I hope they give me a chance back there. It would be fun.

“Just adding another dimension to my game," Green said. "It would be fun.”

Green’s not concerned about the prospect of an injury, but the issue could hold Richt back from putting the star back deep. If Green doesn’t get the nod, the role still figures to be given to a prominent Georgia player, most likely another starter. Green listed safety Bacarri Rambo, running back Washaun Ealey, and cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith as his chief competition.

Richt said earlier in the week that Gray could still serve as the Bulldogs returner in non-returnable situations, due to his hands and decision-making.


The stands were practically empty. The scoreboard turned off. No voice echoing over the PA.

But players said Sanford Stadium is still a special place to be, even for just a practice.

The Bulldogs returned to Sanford for work Saturday, the first in full pads, and with full contact of spring.

Kentucky upset the Bulldogs, 38-34, the last time Georgia was on it’s home turf, and Saturday the Bulldogs got to “scratch” those feelings away, tight end Orson Charles said.

“It’s a whole different feeling,” Charles said. “I was nervous before 3-on-3 drills. I was in Sanford Stadium again and I know the last time we were in there we lost. We wanted to scratch that out of our heads.”

Georgia players were noticeably ramped up entering the Stadium, yelling, laughing and having a good time before getting down to business.

During practice, players participated in 11-on-11 drills, but only tackled to the ground in individualized drills.

“Practice was very intense,” said defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson. “It was the first day of pads and guys got after it. We kind of played with a little bit of speed, but we still had some mental errors that we’ve got to fix. But today was pretty good for the first day in pads. It’s very exciting when we get to go full speed and do what we’re supposed to do and play how we’re supposed to play.”


An estimated 150 onlookers lined the field inside Sanford for practice Saturday, with high school juniors invited to Georgia’s campus.

The event was the third such Georgia junior day to take place.

“It was fun. It was nice having all the recruits out there,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Being in Sanford Stadium, It was a beautiful day.”

The recruits, and family, got to watch practice, view the facilities and talk to Richt and current players.

Green was the main attraction for many of the recruits, but other players, such as Charles and receiver Marlon Brown gave advice on how to handle the process.

“What I tell them—get your family involved,” Charles said. “Sit down with your family, do pros and cons. Ask the coaches all the questions you want. Do your own research. And then just get your family involved. Ask your mom, bring your family on your recruiting visit and just pray about it.”

Brown said the coaches conducted practice as usual, with no difference because of added attendance.

“I talked to a few of them,” Brown said. “A couple of them. They really just ask about the coaches and practice. I told them, that’s practice. That’s how it really is.”


Anonymous said...

AJ for Heisman

FL DAWG said...

Return specialist Carlton Thomas on punts and kickoffs with Boykin. Get Smith involved if he can prove he can hold onto the ball and make good decisions. Dont think it will happen but I think Boykin would be unstobable on offense as an RB/WR, he move so easely and has unbelievable balance , hip movement and strength. Runs like Robert Edwards

ben said...

I say give AJ a shot...if he's the best player on your team, you gotta at least try....yeah he may get hurt, but that's football, man.

Anonymous said...

Tough call.. Gibson runs a kickoff back for a TD vs. Clemson in '02. That doesn't happen, who knows how that season turns out.
'06, Thomas Brown is injured vs. Vandy on a return. If he's not hurt, we might win that game and change the season. A.J. is so dynamic though. I think KO returns might be a better choice vs punt returns...

Texas_Dawg said...

This Gray as punt returner thing is the most overblown issue in UGA history.

Gray caught 4 punts last year that may have been returned by another returner. Four. And 3 of them came on 4th and less than 2 situations where we were in punt safe guarding for the fake.

Man, it must be a really slow spring.

Ben S said...

More opportunities for AJ to be injured? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Come on Dawg fans! Injuries are part of the game, and they can hardly be avoided by playing scared! AJ didn't return a single punt last season, yet he still missed several games due to injury. It happens in football!

Did Pete Carroll hesitate to put Reggie Bush back there returning punts? Nope. Turned out pretty well, didn't it? How 'bout Nick Saban? Did he hesitate to put Javier Arenas back there the past couple years? Nope. Turned out OK, huh? Urban Meyer? Did he hesitate to put Brandon James back there? Nope. You get my point, I'm sure.

AJ is SO explosive and SO elusive. He is easily our best player, and I say get the ball in his hands as often as possible. The margin for victory in any given SEC game is razor thin. ONE big play could make a HUGE difference, and who out there doesn't believe AJ is capable of making at least one big play per game returning punts?

FWIW, I couldn't agree more with Texas Dawg's comments regarding the "Logan Gray Punt Returner" issue. Easily The Most Overblown Issue in UGA fb history. In my opinion, all the naysayers and critics have nothing to carp about now that Willie Martinez has been fired and we have an exceedingly competent group of coaches leading our defense. They gotta carp about something, so the Logan Punt Returner issue is their flavor of the week.

BigMuddyDawg said...

AJ Green is a Jedi.

Anonymous said...

Injuries are definatly part of the game but you dont put Aj at punt return. Shoulder and groin issues and we are thin at wr. I agree we need a return specialist like we've had in the past.

Dawgfan17 said...

Smith would be amazing back there if he can get the fumbles under control. Second choice would be one of the back up running backs. A way to get smaller, really quick guys involved and take some of the workload off of starters. It is not so much the chance of injury I worry about with Green individually but the overall lack of depth at WR. We don't need him to have to take any breathers if possible and returning kicks would wear him down just a bit more. However I would not fault the coaches at all for wanting to get the ball in Green's hands a few extra plays a game.