ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford had answered numerous questions earlier this week about the program’s No. 1 ranking and offseason troubles when he was asked about freshman receiver A.J. Green.
The change in topic was welcome.
“He’s a young guy who doesn’t know the offense yet, but he definitely knows what to do when the ball is in the air,” Stafford said. “He’s a big, tall guy who goes up and gets it, and he’s also one of those guys who can kind of turn it on when the ball is in the air.”
Green, a Parade All-American who had 72 receptions for 1,437 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago at Summerville (S.C.) High, impressed teammates during summer workouts but has been hindered this week. He thought he had aggravated an old groin injury Monday, but coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that it was a hip flexor.
The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Green practiced Wednesday but was limited.
Richt ranks Green and Stafford as his most high-profile commitments who required the least amount of maintenance. Green committed to Georgia’s 2008 class in October 2006 and never wavered.
Speaking last week to the Chattanooga/Northwest Georgia Bulldog Club, Richt said he normally doesn’t condone skipping classes but that the two days Green missed as a senior were when Clemson’s Tommy Bowden and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier were scheduled to visit.
Once he arrived this summer, Green was taken under the wing of senior receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, a former Parade All-American, and began turning heads. Junior cornerback Asher Allen describes Green as the most complete receiver he’s seen in his three years.
“Everybody has their niche,” Allen said. “Mohamed is good with his hands and is really quick. Kenneth Harris is a big body and is able to move that big body. Kris Durham is tall and lanky and can catch. I think A.J. has a little bit of everybody’s best qualities in him, and I think that’s really, really good.”
It didn’t take long for Green to adjust to Stafford’s velocity, which was an issue for Bulldogs receivers during the first half of the ’06 season when Stafford, Joe Cox and Joe Tereshinski took turns under center. Green said he was relaxing his hands on a Stafford pass when the ball shot through and rattled his facemask.
“It only took one or two of those,” he said.
Green’s most admired receiver is New England’s Randy Moss, because he is dangerous as a deep threat as well as on jump balls and short screens. He admits he’s not a “trouble guy” and that his desire to emulate Moss occurs on the field only.
When asked about his biggest challenge in preseason camp, Green said, “My route running. When I run routes, my hands go a little wide when I’m breaking down. Coaches have been teaching me to keep it tight and to not give the route away.”
Wednesday marked Georgia’s first day in shoulder pads, which gave redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tanner Strickland another opportunity to impress.
“If you asked me who’s improved the most from spring to today, it would be Strickland,” Richt said. “Entering camp, I don’t know if we thought he would compete like he has. Seeing how he carries himself in the huddle, you can tell he has a lot more confidence.”
Strickland is challenging Justin Anderson for starting right guard in the opener against Georgia Southern. Clint Boling made 10 starts at right guard last season but is suspended for the opener.
Odds and ends
Cox (sore elbow) was held out of Wednesday’s practice, as was backup free safety John Knox (dehydration). ... Redshirt freshman receiver Walter Hill will miss the rest of camp after breaking his hand. ... Redshirt freshman walk-on John Potts was the No. 2 right tackle after spring practice, but he is out all camp with a back injury. Freshman Cordy Glenn now is working behind starter Kiante Tripp. ... Senior reserve safety Drew Williams and senior reserve fullback Benjamin Boyd, who each compete on special teams, have been awarded scholarships for the upcoming season. ... Senior punter Brian Mimbs was awarded a scholarship last week.
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 ...