Kickoff/punt returners: A new role for A.J. Green?
(This is the finale of a summertime series looking at Georgia’s football team by position.)
TODAY: KICKOFF AND PUNT RETURNERS
- Kickoff returns: Brandon Boykin again figures to handle the bulk of this role. He returned 38 kickoffs last season, while Branden Smith returned 16.
- Punt returns: The competition will resume in August to replace Prince Miller, who graduated (and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens). At least seven players tried out for the punt-return role in spring practice –- Boykin, Smith, A.J. Green, Bacarri Rambo, Rantavious Wooten, Carlton Thomas and Washaun Ealey –- and coaches did not reveal a pecking order or narrow the field. Logan Gray appears likely to continue his role of receiving punts in field-position situations where returns are not set up; his job in this capacity is to decide whether to fair-catch the punt or let the ball go.
- Key stats: Boykin set UGA single-season records last year with 988 kickoff- return yards and three kickoff-return touchdowns. He became the first player in SEC history to return two kickoffs 100 yards in the same season. While Boykin averaged 26 yards per KO return, Smith averaged 17.4 yards with a long of 48. As a team, Georgia averaged 22.1 yards on 60 KO returns, ranking 10th in the SEC. . . . Meanwhile, Miller averaged 11.9 yards per punt return, ranking fourth in the SEC.
- Key question: The question of whether Green, the star wide receiver, will return punts has drawn a lot of attention since he made it known during spring practice that he would like to have the job. (You can find more on that here and here.) Mark Richt said injury concerns won’t dissuade the Dogs from using Green on punt returns, but added that the larger unanswered question is simply whether Green proves to be “the best at that skill. If he is, then we’ll let him play. Or if there are certain times we feel it’s important to get him in there and do that, we might do that, too.”
- Outlook: Clear on kickoff returns, hazy on punt returns.
- Your turn: What say you about the kick-return and punt-return situations?
Please click on the position for previous entries in this series: