ATHENS — Georgia coaches are looking for ways to get the ball in A.J. Green’s hands more often, and they’re seeking a temporary replacement for Branden Smith as the punt returner.
Green would love for the coaches to address both issues simultaneously by letting him return some punts Saturday against Tennessee.
“I hope so,” he said Tuesday night. “I would love to do that, but who knows?”
Green said he has returned punts in practice this week, as have Carlton Thomas, Logan Gray and freshman Derek Owens, but Green said the coaches haven’t told him whether he’ll do so in the game Saturday.
“They said, ‘Just be ready,’” Green said.
Green lobbied for the punt-return job in the spring and summer, triggering much debate about whether the coaches should risk injury to the star wide receiver in that role. The punt-return job ultimately was won by Smith.
Smith suffered a concussion last week against Colorado, his second in less than three weeks, and it’s not known when he’ll be able to return to action. Coach Mark Richt said Smith definitely won’t play this week and “probably not any time soon.”
Richt said Tuesday he’s not sure who will return punts against Tennessee but said all the players getting reps in practice are “certainly capable.” UPDATE: On Wednesday, Richt said Gray “more than likely” will be the primary punt returner.
By the way, Green considers his leaping, left-handed touchdown reception against Colorado last week the best catch of his Georgia career.
“I think that’s the best one by far,” he said.
In his season debut after a four-game NCAA suspension, Green caught seven passes for 119 yards and rushed for another 40 yards on an end-around. Returning an occasional punt, he figures, could be an opportunity for more playmaking.
“I just like the ball in my hands,” he said. “I feel like I can make plays. It would be nice to do that.”