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:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks.

Tailbacks/fullbacks.

Wide receivers.

Tight ends.

Offensive line.

DEFENSE

Outside linebackers.

Inside linebackers.

Defensive line.

Defensive backs.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kickers.

128 comments Add your comment

Suckers are First

June 29th, 2010
6:18 am

Enter your comments here

jason

June 29th, 2010
6:33 am

I like the idea of having 2 KO returners. While Boykin is the primary, I would like to see Carlton Thomas get a try as the alternate. UGA has alot of speed on this team and not necessarrily just the starters. Give the 2nd and 3rd team guys a chance in these roles. As far as PRs, Thomas again or maybe Smith? If Green has the best skill set then so be it, I perfer not to have Green or Boykin do it simpily because of injury and fatigue. Also would like to see FBs and TEs on these return teams to shore up the blocking; just a thought.

Spike

June 29th, 2010
6:34 am

Let Green try it. I know injuries are always a concern, but I simply do not recall to many punt return guys getting injured any more than anybody else. The only time I can recall was when Mikey Henderson got nailed by that cheap shot in the Sugar Bowl by that jerk on Hawaii. That was a helmet to helmet shot that should og resulted in an ejection.

Spike

June 29th, 2010
6:35 am

Sorry, spell police. “of”.

Thenumber34

June 29th, 2010
6:36 am

Punt returns are too important not to have the best man in the position. If that’s AJ, let’s do it.

TXDawg

June 29th, 2010
6:44 am

There’s plenty of speed to choose from, just be sure whomever it is has hands and enough smarts to be productive at the position. Anything less than Prince Miller is a drop-off from last season. Right now, Boykin and Branden Smith both have more speed than Prince, if they can exercise half the sense Prince displayed when returning kickoffs, then we should be good.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

June 29th, 2010
7:11 am

No to Green- he’s one of our biggest weapons on offense. Stay with Boykin, Smith, or C.Thomas. Or maybe even Cuff- didn’t he post the fastest 40yd dash on the team??

Bob

June 29th, 2010
7:46 am

30-24 Dawgs - WE RUN THIS STATE!

June 29th, 2010
7:52 am

Would like to see CMR put the best athletes on ST, not just the walk-ons/scrubs. That’s what All-barn did when Cadillac and Ronnie Brown were there – put them both back on punt returns which was a SCARY tandem for any other teams.

Brandon Smith can FLY but has a penchant for fumbling. Boykin is more trustworthy on kick return duty. CK4 would be a good return guy if he ran down the throats like he did all night long to gt.

tony

June 29th, 2010
7:53 am

I say no. He’s too valuable for us to lose him to injuries. He is putting his entire nfl future in danger if does this. He should return kicks in the nfl after he recieves his guaranteed money.

cmon Spike

June 29th, 2010
8:10 am

You dont remember Thomas Brown blowing out his knee in a return? We will be morons to use our best receiever in decades(ever?) as a punt returner.

poopdawg

June 29th, 2010
8:14 am

I would prefer an offensive guy because he comes on the field a little bit fresher( punt returner.)

poopdawg

June 29th, 2010
8:16 am

cmon spike , that was a kick return not punt but both are capable of getting hurt.

Ted Striker

June 29th, 2010
8:18 am

Best performer at the position.

dap01

June 29th, 2010
8:18 am

Boykins is the best, why change?

Sweat Socks

June 29th, 2010
8:22 am

Two words:

Jon Fabris.

Spike

June 29th, 2010
8:26 am

Cmon Spike.. But, are they not more exposed to injury than running or catching the ball? In other words, they are just as likely or more so to get hurt doing their regular duties. I just don’t know of that many punt returners that get hurt. Significant examples?

Spike Spell Helper

June 29th, 2010
8:28 am

Spike. Your self correct spell ck failed you… the word you corrected (of), should have been the word “have”. It is not “…should of…”, but instead should be a conjunction b/t ’should’ and ‘have’…. “should’ve”. Just sayin… “…shot that should’ve resulted in…”

UGA is Just Fine....

June 29th, 2010
8:31 am

Green is a playmaker and very good in open space. Anytime you have an opportunity to get the ball into a playmaker’s hands it’s a good thing.

I think the injury concern with punt returners is one of the biggest myths in football. Does anyone have any statistical data to back up this concern? No because it doesn’t exist.

That being said I would be interested in seeing what Wooten could do in the role, he too seems to be very good with the ball in space.

Go Dawgs!

Joey

June 29th, 2010
8:33 am

You’re right, Doc, Green is our biggest weapon, and that’s why he should return punts. It puts the ball in his hands 4+ times per game.

Spelling Police

June 29th, 2010
8:36 am

Spike – You get no points for your correction. The word to use there would be “have”, not “of”. That was a helmet to helmet shot that should have resulted in an ejection.

UGA is Just Fine....

June 29th, 2010
8:37 am

cmon spike…Brown could just as easily blown that knee running the ball. Anytime a player steps on the field there is risk of injury, football is a contact sport.

Green is more likely to get hurt catching a ball over the middle than returning punts, so should we not have him run any routes that require him to catch the ball in the middle of the field? Reverses are out as well I suppose. Why don’t we simply put him in a glass case with a little chained hammer and let him sit on the sidelines holding a “break glass in case of emergency” sign!

Go Dawgs!

Hal

June 29th, 2010
8:38 am

There is plenty of talent and speed to burn under other numbers at UGA. Leave 8 on the sideline getting ready to catch TD tosses. He is way way too valuable in his regular role and has already shown a little injury bug his first too years. Healthy, he’s the best receiver in the country… lets keep him that way. Returns are violent, look at the NFL… ever remember Jerry Rice or Micheal Vick returning punts just because they could? No… they meant too much otherwise. Screw the extra 15 yards, AJ can make that up in one catch.

Mark and the old staff were hard headed on subjects where outside folks seemed to know better last year ie: Samuels as running back as opposed to line-backer where his high school coach said he was a natural, and directional kick offs we all knew were killing us. Hopefully he listens to logic in this case. To make a good run, we have to have AJ with us.

Spike

June 29th, 2010
8:43 am

Spell Helper, Spell Police.. Spike stands corrected. However, it was 6:43am! Don’t taze me bros!!

FBR

June 29th, 2010
8:50 am

Spike — The more glaring issue is the use of “to” . That means toward something—you need “TOO” meaning more than enough–OK I’ll shutup now.

Spike

June 29th, 2010
8:53 am

Alright guys, I GET IT!! Have you guys never misspelled a word or made a typo? Sheesh.

Give me a Break

June 29th, 2010
8:54 am

Please do not try to correct any spelling errors before 9:00 am and definetly not until you have had 3 cups of coffee.

Spike Spell Helper

June 29th, 2010
8:55 am

Um… no, not that i recall. How ’bout you FBR?

Gators Eat Boogers

June 29th, 2010
8:57 am

HELL NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Spike

June 29th, 2010
9:02 am

Spell Helper.. It should be a capital “I”. And there is an “a” in ’bout. Let us return to our scheduled program about FOOTBALL.

Fridawg

June 29th, 2010
9:05 am

Green has a full scholarship last I checked. Use him to his full potential.

C Washington's Track Coach

June 29th, 2010
9:06 am

Wasn’t it reported that Cornelius Washington, the outside linebacker (3-4) ran a 4.29 40? I know, hand timed, but if that is true, then why not him? He’s 6′4″, 240 lbs and runs a 4.29? Who stops that train? Ok, sure, maybe he’s a dl because he can’t catch, but it would be fun to see.

UGA is Just Fine....

June 29th, 2010
9:11 am

Hal- NFL & College are two different animals. In the NFL positions are much more specialized. The reason you don’t see many of the big name stars doing it is because they sign/draft players specifically for that need. In the NFL even the “scrubs” were very good players in college.

In college the majority of players on a team won’t even make it to the next level. One of the things Meyer and Saban both do well is they find ways to get the ball into their playmakers hands. As I recall didn’t P.Harvin return kicks/punts? Arenas and J.Jones returned kicks for Bama last year and both were two of bama’s most important starters on defense and offense.
If AJ is the best player for the job then let him do it. You can’t coach/play from a position of fear. Coaching/playing to avoid injury is a sure way to get a player hurt.
Let’s not forget, AJ went to the coaches about this not the other way around. If AJ is comfortable with doing it and feels it’s another way he can help the team win then we as fans and the coaches should respect that and not treat him like a china doll.
Go Dawgs!

Mikey SAV

June 29th, 2010
9:12 am

Question:
What was Trindon Holliday of LSU’s position- was he a receiver? I cannot recall. Seems he was too short to be a WR but the point is he was the fastest man on the field so he handled KR and PR and did one hell of a job.

Another one- Javier Arenas of the Tide. I believe he handled PR as well as his regular job in the secondary and excelled at both.

The bottom line is do not be afraid. put the best damn athlete out there.

Reality Stinks

June 29th, 2010
9:12 am

I think this article has been written too many times

Write about it if it happens other than that shut up and talk about something else

Green doesnt need to punt return this coaching staff will just make him down the ball anyway

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 29th, 2010
9:18 am

How is it hazy in the Punt Return game? With the athletes mentioned as possible replacements it seems that the staff has more than ample weapons to select from.

Also- how was my spelling and puncuation? That word to and too always gets me along with there and their. I dont say either differently, nor stress the extra O on to so really who gives a crap! Sorry, my little rant!

GOOOO DAWGS!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 29th, 2010
9:19 am

Holliday was a RB but if I am sure on occasion they lined him up in the slot to (see) utilize his speed in slip screens and such.

Fletch

June 29th, 2010
9:22 am

We’ve only got him for this season so turn him loose!!!

RxDawg

June 29th, 2010
9:23 am

That’s a good point about inuries, or lack there of on punt returns. I do not recall that many people getting hurt on punt returns either. At least, no more than any other given play. If AJ is good at it, better than the rest, then let em roll baby.

robodawg

June 29th, 2010
9:27 am

I don’t like having a return specialist who’s job is to not return, just fair catch or let it bounce. What if the ball falls in a way that it can be fielded, where it doesn’t need to be fair caught, as it sometimes does? You’re giving away field position in the area of the field where you need it most.

Plus, put someone on the 10 yard line who’s a threat to take it the distance, and see if that doesn’t change the punt — either kicking it long or kicking it out of bounds, sacrificing some yards just to avoid it getting fielded. Again, you’re giving away field position where you need it most. Makes no sense.

chazzo

June 29th, 2010
9:31 am

As much as I think it is an unnecessary risk to put AJ back there, it may be an interesting psyche out to have to punt to him unexpectedly. Boykin is clearly the man. Smith is a great second. Sure throw Thomas in the mix, too. I am a little ignorant of the finer points of punt return strategy, but it seems odd to me that a you would designate a player not to return the ball. Am I wrong about this? Is it obvious that a return is not on, anyway? What if a guy is back there to fair catch it, and it is obvious that he can get ten yards out of cary, for example? I am asking, here. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the opposing teams off guard a little more?

Dawggonefan2

June 29th, 2010
9:35 am

Only way you will see anyone else touch the ball on special teams is if Boykin is tired or injured, except Logan Gray will continue his roll with fair catches.

chazzo

June 29th, 2010
9:40 am

What would happen if the return was always on? I know that’s a silly question. I would just for once like to see everything full tilt all the time. Give up a couple of big plays, create a bunch of big plays. The last couple of years, for obvious reasons, have been unusually conservative even for Richt. I want to see some of that Spurrier philosophy when he was with the Gators… Everything, all the way, all the time.

Ron O

June 29th, 2010
9:46 am

2 things really jump out on the stats. 1st despite 3 returns for touchdowns including the 2 100 yarders, the team was 10th in the league in avg returns. That’s bad, shows that our overall return sucked. Hoepfully new special teams coaching corrects that. 2nd we returned 60 kicks. Thats an avg of 5 a game. That shows just how bad our defense was last year.

Buddy Ball

June 29th, 2010
9:47 am

playing with fear will lose ballgames. play with confidence. AJ green returned 12 punts for touchdowns in high school, no one on the team can touch that. i liked it when Desmond Howard won the Heisman by making some incredible returns in big games–you give the ball to your playmakers like Holtz did to win the National Championship at Notre Dame. can you imagine AJ returning punts during the Florida game? aj’s back-up is averaging more yards per catch than AJ and very durable–Wooten, so I wouldn’t hesitate to put AJ returning punts.

Deputy Dawg (of the grammar police)

June 29th, 2010
9:55 am

Spike, Don’t be so thin skinned. It was a simple error in the use of a modal verb form in the present perfect tense.

bammer's_suck

June 29th, 2010
10:11 am

You play to win the game. If AJ is the best, gata!! Go Dawgs! To the grammar police, really? Go do something that matters instead of bs on a blog. Wtf Over.

Moosh

June 29th, 2010
10:16 am

Obviously I’m afraid of losing AJ to injury too. But, let’s be honest, this is his last year in Athens. He’s the best player on the team. You want the best player to have the ball in his hands. Maybe not use him all the time back there, but I’d still do it. A lot of players pull double duty and have been very successful at it. I’d hate to play it safe and wonder what-if down the road. Besides, I’d think he’s just as likely, if not moreso, to get injured playing WR as he is returning punts.

Big Albany Dawg

June 29th, 2010
10:19 am

I still blame Dodo, I mean Bobo, for getting AJ Green injured against Auburn last year with his ” simple screen to the left” play that he FOOLS everyone with by throwing it at least once every set of downs for -2 yards. Boykin and Smith.

jason

June 29th, 2010
10:21 am

didn’t think of Wooten. I always heard of trying to find a way to get the ball in Carlton Thomas’s hands. He was lethal in space. Why not him as PR. I also agree with the best man for the job, and hey Green did go to the coaches with the idea. It also would give him probably 5 more touches per game.