Two freshman wide receivers made big splashes last season in the SEC: Alabama’s Julio Jones and Georgia’s A.J. Green.
Both had big, high-profile games early on. Green had eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown against Arizona State while Jones caught five passes for 94 yards and a touchdown against Georgia. Both were named second-team All-SEC by the coaches while Green made AP’s All-SEC first team and Jones the AP’s second team. Green was the coaches’ freshman of the year while Jones was the AP’s freshman of the year.
Their numbers for the season were quite similar, with a slight edge for Green, who played in 13 games and snagged 56 passes for 963 yards and eight TDs. He averaged 17.2 yards per catch. Jones played in 14 games and had 58 catches for 924 yards and four TDs, averaging 15.9 yards per catch.
So how is it that as the 2009 season approaches, Jones seems to be the media favorite over Green? Phil Steele has Jones second-team All-American while Green is third team. Jones is on Lindy’s All-America second team; Green didn’t make it. And when Sporting News Today’s Matt Hayes picked his 25 best players in college football, Jones was No. 15 while Green didn’t even rate a mention.
A Sporting News Today reader called Hayes on this last week, saying Jones “is not so much better than A.J. Green that he deserves 15th best in the nation and A.J. doesn’t even make your list.”
Hayes responded that “Green is a terrific talent, but he’s not the same player as Jones. Not even close. Green benefited last fall from Matthew Stafford, and developed into a dangerous threat. Jones was saddled with John Parker Wilson, a serviceable quarterback who was told not to mess up.” With a better QB, Hayes concluded, Jones would have had a “monster” season as a freshman.
OK, I’m not here to knock Jones. He is a terrific receiver. But so is Green and I frankly didn’t see that much difference between them. Maybe Jones is due a little extra credit because he didn’t have a QB like Stafford delivering those balls, but I recall Green having to make a few catches that weren’t exactly perfect passes.
So what’s the difference in how Green and Jones are being perceived? Does Jones being on a team with the magic name of “Alabama” that went to the SEC Championship play into it? And if Green keeps pace with Jones this season while both have uncelebrated former journeyman backups throwing to them, what will that mean?
What do you think about Green’s preseason media treatment?