September 23, 2009

Green lifts game to a higher plateau

Tavarres King didn't hesitate for a second when he was asked to describe fellow wide receiver A.J. Green.

"That's Superman right there," King said. "Nothing he does surprises me. He's just awesome."

It would be hard to argue otherwise.

After earning All-SEC honors as a true freshman after catching 56 passes for 963 yards and eight scores, Green shows no signs of slowing down.

The sophomore from South Carolina enters Saturday's game against Arizona State ranked first in the SEC in receiving yards per game at 74.1, after his performance last week against Arkansas which saw him grab seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

"Last year I could not remember half the plays half the time. I could not read coverages," Green said. "I was just out there running around. Now, I know how to run, run off the safety, things like that."

Head coach Mark Richt echoed what Green had to say.

When Green arrived at Georgia over the summer, he weighed approximately 192 pounds. Now, the 6-foot-4 receiver tips the scales at approximately 210.

"He's close to 20 pounds heavier than the day he came to Georgia, so he's definitely a stronger receiver. I've seen no drop-off in speed or quickness," Richt said. "He's a much better blocker. He certainly has a greater understanding of what we are trying to do. Last year we had some guys guiding him almost every play early in the year. Of course as the season went on he got more comfortable."

Green certainly was at ease against the Razorbacks, despite the fact that Arkansas routinely rolled its defensive coverage toward the talented sophomore.

Obviously, that didn't affect Green's ability to burn the Hogs, but what it did do was present opportunities for quarterback Joe Cox who hooked up with King, Orson Charles and Aron White for a trio of touchdown passes.

"I still think I can make plays when the ball is thrown my way, no matter how many guys are on me," Green said. "But we've got some other young guys who can really take the pressure off me when the coverage rolls to my side."

Richt wouldn't mind seeing that trend continue.

The more teams focus their attention on Green, the more opportunities there will be for other individuals to make plays.

"They are all beginning to benefit from the types of coverage A.J. has been seeing. Then it got to the point where they had to go back to running the overload and playing press coverage. That was the one time we happened to throw the fade to A.J. for a touchdown," Richt said. "So A.J., in turn, benefited from those guys making plays. That is something we had talked about all offseason where early in the year we felt like the receivers opposite of A.J. were going to benefit from some coverage looks and they were going to have to take advantage of it.

"If they played well enough, maybe we could free up A.J. to get some single coverage opportunities, and that's what's happened. I think Mike (Bobo) did a good job of scheming to get the ball to A.J. even though they were playing some double coverage on him. We still got the ball to him and he still was a factor in that regard too."

Arizona State learned all it needed to know about Green during last year's game in Tempe.

That evening, Green caught eight passes for 159 yards and a score in an outing that technically served as his official "unveiling" to the rest of the college football world.

"I guess that was my 'Coming out party,'" Green smiled. "I can't forget about that."

No doubt ASU cornerbacks Terrell Carr and Pierre Singfield remember it, too.

The duo was part of the Sun Devil secondary to be torched by Green in the game.

"I'm sure that's going to motivate them but it's also going to motivate me," he said. "I'm out there trying to get better each week. I don't want to have a good game, and then a bad game. I want to get better each week."

Richt said there's not much that Green doesn't do well.

"I don't think there is a certain type of route that you'd say he is best at. He can run very route. I wouldn't say he's just a deep ball guy, I wouldn't say he's just a quick-screen guy. He can really run just about any route that we want him to run," Richt said. "When you take his combination of height and the range of his arms, his speed and agility; a lot of guys who are tall might be fast and can make a play on a deep ball, but A.J. can out-jump people, he can run by people. He can make them miss, and he's becoming a pretty darn good blocker. There isn't much that you'd ask a receiver to do that he can't do well. He's pretty good. I'm glad we have him."

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