BIGGER AND BETTER?
Considering he led the SEC in receiving, it’s not like A.J. Green didn’t command plenty of attention from opposing defenses during his stellar freshman season in 2008. But for all Green’s talent, it was hard to ignore Mohamed Massaquoi, the standout senior, on the other side of the field.
Both receivers topped 900 yards last season, and the duo made it nearly impossible for defensive coordinators to slow Georgia’s passing game. This year, however, the task of intimidating defenders will fall solely on Green, who said he’ll be lining up in a few new places in order to keep the opposition on its toes.
“Just the offense switching me off the ball, putting me in motion a lot, stuff like that,” Green said. “I think I’m just going to be all over the place this year. Not just a Z. I’ll be the Y, the X, just everywhere.”
Of course, before he gets back to tormenting cornerbacks, he needs to get healthy. Green said he’s feeling stronger, and he has actually added 12 pounds to his frame since arriving at Georgia – he weighs in at 207 pounds now – but with a nagging groin injury still lingering, he still isn’t guaranteed to be a full participant in spring practice.
“I’m still limited, but it’s getting much better,” he said. “I can run full speed now without feeling it, but I’m not changing direction.”
Linebacker Rennie Curran has spent some time reflecting on the missed opportunities of the 2008 season, and he’s convinced the solution to the team’s problems isn’t too complicated.
Excessive penalties and poor technique caused numerous headaches for the defense a year ago, and Curran said fixing those issues for 2009 is simply a matter of focusing on the fundamentals early, so players are already in the habit of doing them correctly down the road.
“Building a solid foundation that will hopefully last us through the entire season, doing things like tackling right, being disciplined, not getting offsides and things like that that killed us last year,” Curran said. “We need to start off correcting those things and making sure they’re not an issue.”
So far, Curran said, he’s happy with the early results. Veterans are being more hands on with the younger players, and those players have been willing to learn.
“It’s guys not just wanting to be the cool guy, but everybody being on the same page and wanting to work hard,” Curran said. “We’ve got a lot of hungry guys, a lot of freshmen that are stepping up and doing big things in mat drills. When they’re in the weight room, they’re really looking impressive.”
Makiri Pugh was realistic entering his freshman season, hardly expecting to land a starting job. Still, he figured he could be a key contributor on special teams and find his way on to the field for a handful of defensive snaps each week.
Instead, his hopes were dashed before his season began. Pugh injured his ankle in the first week of fall practice, and he spent the rest of the year playing catch-up – an afterthought on the depth chart, landing a redshirt designation and no playing time.
“It was really tough,” Pugh said. “I had to mature quickly in a different way than some of the guys who were actually getting on the field last year. I had to learn how to be a better teammate while I couldn’t be on the field.”