Contributed Photo Georgia's A.J. Greene runs with the football.
ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s A.J. Green is excited about the upcoming season, even if breaking the Southeastern Conference’s career receiving mark with a year to spare is now a long shot.
Eight games into his sophomore season last year, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound flanker from Summerville, S.C., was on track to amass 3,148 receiving yards in three seasons. The SEC record of 3,093 yards was set by Georgia’s Terrence Edwards from 1999-2002.
Yet most every career mark involves staying healthy, and Green couldn’t do that down the stretch. He suffered a bruised lung against Florida and sat out against Tennessee Tech, the first missed game he could ever remember, and he separated his shoulder against Auburn and missed the Kentucky and Georgia Tech games.
“I don’t keep up with stuff like that, but I heard I was on pace,” Green said. “You can’t let that get you down. It’s the game of football. You get hurt. You’ve just got to come back stronger and get better.”
For Green to break the SEC record this season, he would have to average 102 yards a game, which will be difficult on an offense with much more developed talent compared to last year. In Green’s absence last season, tight end Orson Charles and receiver Tavarres King com-
bined for 182 receiving yards against Kentucky, while Washaun Ealey and Caleb King combined for 349 rushing yards at Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs gained 902 total yards in their final two regular-season games with Green sidelined, but there is no question he returns this season as the offensive centerpiece.
“Obviously he’s our No. 1 guy,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Really, every time we practice and every game we go into, we say, ‘How do we get A.J. the ball, and is there something new we can do?’ Last year we were able to get it to him in some different ways by moving him around. He played two different spots, whereas his freshman year he only played one.
“Going into his third year, he’ll be able to play maybe three or possibly four spots on the field at receiver, which will help.”
Green is already on the NFL radar should he decide to skip his senior season. Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2008 signing class, Green was pegged as the No. 7 selection in ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s first mock draft for 2011.
On Georgia’s practice fields this summer, Green ran routes for former Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the ’09 draft.
“I don’t have that on my mind right now,” Green said. “I’m just going to take it as it comes when the season ends and will make that decision off whatever is best for me and my family. Right now, I just want to put my team in position to win and stay healthy.
“It’s all about getting better and putting more tools in my tool box.”
While Green has exhibited his athleticism numerous times — his favorite play is not a catch but the blocked field goal he had last year against Arizona State — Bobo is just as impressed with his calm demeanor and selflessness.
“In the two years he’s been here, I’ve never heard him say one negative thing,” Bobo said. “He’s an awesome kid, and he knows he’s going to get his opportunities.”
Freshman outside linebacker Dexter Morant rejoined the team Saturday after quitting last Tuesday and returning to his home in Manning, S.C. Morant must go through the required five-day acclimation period, so he will be behind his teammates for several days.
“Dexter called me the other night and realized he had made a big mistake,” head coach Mark Richt said.
Odds and ends
Richt was pleased with Saturday’s practice in full pads and has been pleased with the first week, pointing out there have been no major injuries. ... Sophomore flanker Rantavious Wooten does have a knee sprain that will keep him sidelined for two weeks. ... Richt said there is a “fairly realistic” chance senior inside linebacker Akeem Dent (toe) will play in the opener.
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 ...