ATHENS, Ga. -- Branden Smith was the highest-rated member of Georgia's 2009 football signing class, and he has provided some good memories for the Bulldogs as a freshman.
He has provided some good memories for other teams, too.
"It wasn't what I expected," Smith said. "I had high expectations of myself, and I would say I played pretty good, but not as good as I expected. Next year I'm going to come into the season with my mind set and my goals high."
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Parade All-American cornerback from Atlanta also has played on offense and special teams and has made an impact in every area. Smith lined up at receiver and took a reverse 61 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina, and he took a direct snap at quarterback and ran 52 yards for a score against Tennessee Tech.
Smith has rushed 17 times this season for 208 yards (12.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, and he's got two of the four longest runs by the Bulldogs. He also had a 48-yard kickoff return against the Gamecocks but fumbled away a return in the same game.
His biggest gaffe was fumbling away the second-half kickoff against Kentucky. The Bulldogs led 20-6 at the time but eventually lost 34-27.
"We're going to continue to find ways to get him the ball," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "The big thing with him is that he's got to learn how to protect the ball and hold on to the ball if he wants to continue touching it."
Smith's favorite moment was his score against South Carolina, and he hopes to play more on offense Monday in the Independence Bowl against Texas A&M. That could be difficult, as the Bulldogs have some momentum with the running tandem of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King and have star receiver A.J. Green returning from injury.
Defensively, Smith has 14 tackles and two pass breakups and shared in a tackle for loss. He is the favorite to start opposite Brandon Boykin next season but likely will have to learn a second system in as many years following the firing of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez earlier this month.
"I think this season might have been more than he thought in terms of how much he had to learn as far as coverages," said graduate assistant Todd Hartley, who is coaching the secondary in the bowl. "In high school, he was so gifted and got away with his natural ability. Now he's having to learn technique, assignments, coverage checks and sight formations, and that's stuff I don't think he's ever done, certainly not to the extent that we've done here.
"He has a lot on his plate and his head might be spinning, but I think he's a guy who stays grounded. He's such a good kid, and he wants to learn."
Odds and ends
Bulldogs players concluded their on-campus workouts Tuesday morning with a 75-minute practice and will reconvene in Shreveport on Thursday afternoon. ... Head coach Mark Richt said there were no academic casualties for the bowl game and that 43 players had grade point averages of 3.0 or better during the fall semester. ... Backup safety Quintin Banks is questionable for Monday after spraining his neck earlier this week.