One thing G-Day never sheds much light on is the kicking game. As is the custom with most college programs, Georgia’s coaches decided not to have kickoffs in the spring intrasquad game, and while there were punts, they weren’t rushed or returned. The reason most teams forgo kickoff and punt returns in the spring games is chiefly because the risk of injury is greater on those plays.
Which is what popped into my mind when I saw David Hale’s update on the punt return situation over at Bulldogs Blog. John Lilly, who’s now special teams coordinator, said he spent the spring rotating various players as punt returner and isn’t even close to making a decision about who’ll get the job. The candidates appear to be Rantavious Wooten, Carlton Thomas, Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith and Bacarri Rambo.
Oh, and star receiver A.J. Green’s still a possibility at punt returner, it seems.
“He’s caught them his whole career here in practice,” Lilly said. “He has the ability. Everyone knows the kind of hands he’s got and he can judge the ball and do those kinds of things. … He’s certainly one of the guys that’s in the mix.”
Now, as I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m not a fan of using Green for punt returns because he’s just too valuable as the Dogs’ top wide receiver and that’s a pretty thin position this year. Yes, he’s a supremely talented player and can make a lot of people miss, so the chances are pretty good that Green could break a long return. But to me the risk of injury is too great — remember, they choose not to do punt returns in the spring game because of that very reason.
Lilly acknowledged those concerns to Hale. “Some people would like to see it, some people wouldn’t want to see it,” he said. But he sounds sorely tempted. “I think in any position on the field and in any area of the kicking game, if somebody can help you win a football game and has that ability, you would use him there,” Lilly said.
What do you think? Worth the gamble or not?
OTHER THOUGHTS ON G-DAY
While Todd Grantham didn’t show us much of his defensive playbook, one thing stood out about Georgia’s defense: The Dogs really look like they’re going to excel at pressuring quarterbacks. I have a feeling Justin Houston might wind up leading the conference in sacks. … Yes, as has been pointed out frequently, Zach Mettenberger racked up his impressive stats playing against the Dogs’ second-string defense. But keep in mind: He was playing behind an offensive line that was a mix of second- and third-stringers and still played smart in the pocket and completed big passes. Just sayin’. … If, God forbid, anything were to happen to Drew Butler, Georgia’s best option at punter probably would be placekicker Blair Walsh. He nailed some impressive punts during warm-ups last Saturday. … Carlton Thomas again had some impressive runs. And again fumbled. I still think his best use is not taking hand-offs but catching the ball out in the flat. … I don’t know how strictly the officials were calling the game — they didn’t blow the whistle on what should have been several sacks — but having just one penalty in the game was really encouraging. … Orson Charles had a really impressive one-handed catch where the ball was badly thrown behind him. He also later dropped a sure catch, but I think we can expect big things from him this season. … The alumni flag football game makes it well worth getting to Sanford Stadium a couple of hours early on G-Day. The Black team coached by my old Athens classmate Andy Johnson beat Larry Rakestraw’s Red team 34-27 in an entertaining match that featured, I think, only one running play all day. I lost track of how many touchdown catches LaBrone Mitchell made, and it was good to see Fred Gibson go up high to pull down a ball. Of course, he then high-stepped it into the end zone — good thing the new NCAA “taunting” rule wasn’t in effect!