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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Smith stars on offense on G-Day - but what about the fall?

The fact that Branden Smith played so much on offense on G-Day was a surprise to many – including Branden Smith.

“I didn’t even know I was going to play any offense at all today, until (offensive) coach (Mike) Bobo told me to get in,” Smith said. “So you know, I’m here.”

That he is, and it appears that Smith, who started at cornerback, could be in for a larger role on offense.

Yes, we’ve heard that before. But Bobo made it clear afterwards that he wants to use Smith on offense.

“He was such a weapon you had to get the ball in his hands," Bobo said after the spring game. "And Branden has shown the ability to do that, and we’ve got to find more ways to get him the ball.”

Smith has played offense before, but said he didn’t see any action on that side during spring. But he ended up getting a lot of touches throughout the G-Day game, finishing with two catches for 38 yards, including the game’s first touchdown, and two rushes for 11 yards.

The problem is that Smith wears the same No. 1 as incoming tailback Isaiah Crowell, and you can’t use players with the same number at the same time.

“We need to figure that out, because he needs to be on offense,” Bobo said.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham shook his head when asked if he would have to “fight” to keep Smith on defense.

“There ain’t no fight,” Grantham said. “Anything to do to help us win. Obviously he’s not going to be a full-time guy there. He’ll be a role player. But anything that can help us get explosive plays, because he’s an explosive guy.”

Then Grantham pointed to Smith’s touchdown, when he took a receiver screen and went 28 yards down the sideline for the touchdown. Smith put a nice move on fellow cornerback Derek Owens in the process.

“He caught a hitch and went the distance and it wasn’t even a vertical route,” Grantham said. “It was basically a one-yard route, and the guy missed the tackle, and he’s got the ability. Those things can help you. And if we put points on the board, then that makes it more fun on defense.”

Head coach Mark Richt said he expects to use Smith on offense “maybe as much or more” as he did last year. (Smith had six rushes for 46 yards and two catches for 17 yards as a sophomore.) Then Richt added that he’d like to use another cornerback, Brandon Boykin, on offense as well. Boykin was out for G-Day with a concussion.

But on Saturday, the focus was on Smith.

“In the huddle they just told me what I’d run, and me and Aaron just connected together,” Smith said. “It was just out of the blue. It was just running in the dirt, that’s all.”

Bobo compared it to how Champ Bailey was used, gradually increasing the amount of plays he had on offense. Bobo sounded hopeful he could do the same with Smith.

“It depends on what happens defensively and who steps up," Bobo said. "If he’s going to be a 70, 75-play player on defense, it’s hard to get him on offense."

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