ATHENS — It was a good conversation piece for the off-season, but you can put aside the idea of A.J. Green as Georgia’s punt returner.
“As it turned out, Branden Smith looks to be our No. 1 [punt-return] guy right now and Carlton Thomas our No. 2,” coach Mark Richt said today. “A.J. can do it. There may come a situation where we say, ‘You know what, let’s put him back there and do it.’”
Or there may not.
Richt noted that punt returners can get “splattered” as soon as they catch the ball and that there’s risk of “an overzealous player deciding they’re going to knock out A.J. Green. So we’re not too thrilled to put him in that situation. If need be, he can do it, but as it turned out we feel Branden Smith is our best option there.”
Green, Georgia’s star receiver, said several times during the spring and summer that he would like to return punts, as he did in high school. But Green said last week that he expected Smith to win the job.
“He’s explosive, man,” Green said.
Smith, a sophomore from Atlanta, cheered the news that he will return punts.
“I’ve been wanting to play punt return ever since I got up here,” he said after practice Wednesday.
Smith said he takes a three-pronged approach to the job: “The No. 1 thing is catching the ball. No. 2 is holding on to the ball. And No. 3 is just do my thing. With my speed and the blocking up front, it should not be that hard.”