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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Notes: Smith Will See Work on Offense

A year ago, Branden Smith had five more touches on offense than he had tackles on defense. But for the speedy cornerback, his sophomore campaign figures to include a lot more time in the defensive backfield – and perhaps a bit less time making plays for the offense.

While Smith is currently listed behind Vance Cuff at corner on Georgia’s depth chart, he still has a strong shot at winning the starting job in the fall, and he would almost certainly be the first defensive back off the bench in nickel situations. That could complicate things a tad when the Bulldogs’ offensive coaches want to give Smith a chance to get a few touches on that side of the ball this season.

“We want to use Branden offensively still because he was very effective,” Mark Richt said. “But he will probably be getting a lot more work on the defensive side of the ball, and he may very well be the starter by the time the season rolls around.”

That doesn’t mean the increased workload on defense will necessarily stifle Smith’s potential on offense. Richt said his goal is to make sure Georgia’s most explosive players get a chance to score as often as possible on offense, and that includes the speedy Smith. Just how much Smith sees action on offense, however, likely depends on the progress of Georgia’s other receivers and on Smith’s conditioning in the early part of the season.

“Those first three games are going to be high noon, and it’s going to be tremendously hot,” Richt said. “So we’re going to have to look in his eye and decide if he’s got enough juice to go run that reverse or whatever play and still have the energy he needs to cover guys throughout the ballgame. But I think as the weather cools down, that shouldn’t be a factor.”


Marlon Brown’s slow start to his college career came as a surprise to many fans who expected the highly recruited wide receiver to blossom as a freshman the way A.J. Green had the year before. Richt knew better.

“Marlon played in a league (in high school) that didn’t challenge him much physically in my opinion,” Richt said. “He was kind of a man among boys in that league, and I really felt like it was going to take him a little time to get up to speed with SEC play.”

At Harding Academy in Memphis, the 6-foot-5 Brown had an easy go of things. At Georgia, however, growing pains were in store.

So none of Brown’s early struggles proved disappointing to Richt. Instead, the coach is thrilled to see just how much his young receiver has developed since catching just two passes his rookie year.

“He’s in tremendous condition, and he’s big, strong, physical,” Richt said. “He might be the best blocking receiver right now, and he’s only getting stronger.”


After saying goodbye to five senior defensive tackles – including three who were taken in April’s NFL draft – Richt figured there would be some big transitions in store on the defensive line. On the plus side, however, the team’s move to a 3-4 defensive scheme – with just three down linemen used in a base set – there was one fewer hole to fill.

“Interior D line, we lost five seniors inside, and you’d think that would be a big issue,” Richt said. “And it probably will. That’s one of our concerns. Some guys might just mature fast enough to play that position. But just people learning in general, there’s a lot to learn out there.”

Still, there are some reasons for optimism, including the progress made by junior DeAngelo Tyson, sophomore Abry Jones and redshirt freshman Kwame Geathers – all who figure to play prominent roles on the line in 2010.

The wild card, however, might be Justin Anderson – a converted offensive lineman who has yet to practice with the defense, but whose 330-pound frame could make him a one-man wrecking crew at the nose position.

"It's going to be a challenge to see if these guys can really control the double teams that they need to inside,” Richt said of the nose position. “That's part of the reason we moved Justin Anderson in there is because he is a big, giant, powerful man and if he can take to it, I think he's going to be tough to block."


With the first dominoes of conference expansion beginning to fall, the questions about what will happen in the SEC continue to abound.

With Colorado and Nebraska appearing close to a move, the ripple effects of what could be the demise of the Big 12 could be huge. And with that in mind, even Richt, who had been skeptical that any big changes were in store, admits things are heating up everywhere.

“There’s some really serious stuff going on out there,” Richt said. “I don’t know about our league. I really feel like we have a great league, and a lot of people believe that. … I don’t think we’re in a rush to change much, but I do think Commissioner (Mike) Slive will make a good decision. I’m sure he’s thinking about what’s going on in the college football landscape and I think he’ll keep us on top.”

While teams like Texas, Virginia Tech or Miami have been discussed as potential SEC additions should expansion occur, the most prevalent rumors seem to surround Georgia’s neighbors on the recruiting trail, including Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State.

While the Bulldogs already go head to head with those schools for the top recruits, Richt’s coaches currently have the distinct advantage of being the only one among that group that can provide the prestige of a career in the SEC. And while that’s no doubt a luxury, Richt said, he doesn’t believe expansion would necessarily have a big impact on how the Bulldogs recruit.

"Some (recruits) really want to play in the Southeastern Conference, but there's a lot of them that are just trying to find the best fit for them," he said.


Two weeks ago, Georgia athletics director Damon Evans told the school’s athletics association board of directors that he had a clear mission for the Bulldogs’ teams in 2010: “We must do better.”

While that means ratcheting up expectations for sports like football and baseball – both of which drastically underperformed expectations during the 2009-10 seasons – Evans isn’t taking any heat off himself for Georgia’s unusually lackluster athletics during the past year.

“I take full responsibility because at the end of the day the buck stops with me,” Evans said. “I’m not the guy doing the Xs and Os and recruiting and all of that, but I do believe that as the leader of an organization that I’ve got to provide them with the necessary resources to be successful – whether that’s from money to facilities or what have you – and at the same time, am I providing the leadership that’s going to allow us to rise and be where we should be. That’s why I have to take a look at myself as well. You can’t run away from things.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Branden needs to learn to protect the ball when he carries it!