(Updated 4:15 p.m.)
ATHENS –- A.J. Green, Georgia’s star wide receiver, wants to add a new role to his repertoire. He wants to return punts for the Bulldogs in the fall.
“I hope they give me a chance back there,” Green said after practice Saturday. “It’d be fun.”
The coaches gave him a chance as Georgia held its fourth session of spring practice -– its first in full pads and first in Sanford Stadium.
Green was among seven players who practiced returning punts, joining Branden Smith, Brandon Boykin, Washaun Ealey, Bacarri Rambo, Carlton Thomas and Rantavious Wooten. (Actually, the punts were simulated –- thrown rather than kicked — but that sufficed for practicing returns and coverage.)
Georgia’s punt-return job is open with the graduation of Prince Miller, who had 19 of the Dogs’ 23 returns last season.
Green, who will be a junior in the fall, returned punts at Summerville (S.C.) High School. In fact, he said Saturday, he returned 12 for touchdowns. And he seems serious about reprising the role here.
“I was talking to Coach [Mark] Richt just the other day about it,” he said.
Asked if he’d have concerns of injury in the role, Green said: “Nah. It’ll just add one little dimension to my game.”
Richt was not available for comment Saturday. He was meeting with a large delegation of high school juniors –- players the Dogs are recruiting for the 2011 signing class – after practice.
Wide receiver Marlon Brown sustained an apparently minor shoulder injury Saturday.
“Just a little bruise,” Brown said. “I fell on it wrong.”
He said it’s day-to-day as to when he returns to practice. Georgia next practices on Tuesday.
Brown, the much-hyped recruit who caught just two passes in limited playing time as a freshman last season, said he has a much better command of the playbook this spring than last season.
“Now I’m on full speed to my assignment,” he said.
Brown and fellow freshman receiver Wooten have improved “greatly,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
“Both of them know the playbook almost inside and out,” Murray said. “They know where they need to be; they know where they’re going to line up, what routes [to run] and what as quarterback we’re looking for. . . They’re definitely doing a lot better.”
Only the first 30 minutes of practice were open to the media, but players said the three quarterbacks –- Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray –- rotated series with the No. 1 offense in 11-on-11 work.
“All three of them looked real good, especially Logan,” Green said. “You’re seeing a different side of him right now; he’s taking more a leadership [role].”
Murray said the offense “had a great week” of practice. “We’re installing things pretty fast,” he said. “We’re pretty much rapid-fire right now.”
After the first three sessions of spring ball were held on the practice fields behind the Butts-Mehre building, players seemed excited by Saturday’s shift to Sanford Stadium.
“It’s a whole different feeling,” tight end Orson Charles said. “I was nervous before 3-on-3 [drills]. I mean, I’m in Sanford Stadium again. I know the last time we were in there we lost [to Kentucky], so we wanted to just scratch it out of our head. Practice was real good. We got after it. And we enjoyed ourselves.”
Richt said through a spokesman Saturday that he hasn’t yet reached a decision on how to discipline Mettenberger, including how many games the recently arrested quarterback will be suspended to start the season. Richt had said earlier that he would have a decision by the end of the week.
Mettenberger was arrested March 7 near Valdosta on five misdemeanor charges: underage consumption/possession of alcohol, disorderly conduct, obstruction and two counts of possessing false identification. UGA Athletic Association policy mandates a suspension of at least one game for an alcohol-related arrest, but Richt could impose more.
– Trinton Sturdivant was on the field Saturday, although not participating in drills. He wass wearing a brace on his left knee. Sturdivant, still rehabbing from his second ACL surgery, worked with director of sports medicine Ron Courson on the sideline. Sturdivant is expected to be back for preseason camp in August.
– With the session the spring’s first in full pads, there were more players in green non-contact jerseys, signifying injury, than the previous practices. Among them: offensive linemen Justin Anderson (shoulder), Tanner Strickland (shoulder), Austin Long (back) and Sturdivant.
– Also watching practice: NFL-bound defensive tackle Jeff Owens. “The guys look very good,” Owens posted on Twitter. “I like the new defense!!!”
If you missed it: Dogs seeking taller cornerbacks; Grantham praises Rodney Garner.