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September 30, 2009
Green faces biggest personal test
A.J. Green's star has never shown brighter than during Georgia's recent wins against Arkansas and Arizona State.
The talented sophomore combined for 15 catches, good for 290 yards and three touchdowns, his most recent effort earning him SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Yes, Green made it look amazingly easy against the Razorbacks and Sun Devils. Although based on the opponent this Saturday, he figures to have a more difficult time this weekend. Or will he?
LSU's defensive backfield features one of the country's best safeties in junior Chad Jones, plus a solid pair of cornerbacks who have helped the Tigers rank seventh nationally in turnover margin at +7 (four interceptions, one fumble).
Oh yeah, then the following week, Green will have to deal with Tennessee safety Eric Berry. But neither challenge appears to bother Green in the least.
"It's going to take my game to a new level," Green said. "I'm just going to work hard. I'm not going to do anything out of character other than work hard and try to get open."
Head coach Mark Richt believes Green and the Bulldogs will be facing the best secondary they've seen as well.
"They do match up well. They probably match up the best of any secondary that we play so far this year. They match up in that they are talented but they are also bigger men. (Patrick) Peterson, is 6-1, 211. That's a huge corner for a guy that can run like he can run and jump and have the ball skills," Richt said. "Sometimes you have a big corner like that and you put him in the boundary and expect him to be the eighth guy in the box and bring him on corner blitzes. He can do all those things but he'll be the wide corner, their right and left. He can play out in space.
"Of course Jones as we've mentioned already, his size and strength and athleticism, they match up well. When you look at (Chris) Hawkins, he's not as big of a kid, but he has some pretty good height, and he's 6-1. We're not going up against some small corners that wouldn't have a chance against the jump ball situations that A.J. has been winning all along. I'm sure by scheme and just by pure athleticism and size they will match up better than anybody we've played."
Quarterback Joe Cox said he and the offense are excited about the challenge.
Not only does facing a top-notch secondary help with focus and preparation, but it's also viewed as an opportunity for the offense to prove how good it can be.
"It just makes you want to make sure you know what's going on that much more. You want to get into the film room more and pick up on anything that you possibly can with what they do pre-snap or right at the snap, so you can get a good read on what their coverage is," Cox said. "It's going to be a great challenge, and it's going to be a great opportunity too. I think we match up well with whom we are playing, and I think if we execute we can get the job done. It's just a matter of us executing."
Of course, knowing that Green will hopefully be on the end of his passes is reason for Cox to be excited.
Green is building on a successful freshman campaign and is currently leading the SEC in total receiving yards (428), receiving yards per game (107) and receptions per game (6.2).
Last year, Green led the SEC in receiving yards, yards per game and tied for first in touchdowns by receivers in becoming the first Bulldog to lead the conference in receiving since Brice Hunter (59 catches, 799 yards) in 1994.
When asked if he was in some sort of "zone" after his fast start, Green simply shrugged.
"I'm never in the zone. I'm always a very relaxed person," Green said. "Some people don't think I'm serious, but that's just the way I am. I'm not going to let anything get to me. I'm just going to go out there and have fun."
Saturday's game should be interesting.
Peterson became the second Tiger to return an interception for a touchdown this year when he picked off a pass and returned it 37 yards for a first-quarter score against Mississippi State, which came on MSU's first offensive play from scrimmage.
Linebacker Jacob Cutrera returned another pick for a touchdown, taking a Jake Locker pass back 29 yards from a score in the first quarter against Washington.
According to Richt, it's going to take the other players doing their respective jobs to help Green be as successful as Bulldog fans hope he will be.
"We need to make sure we are executing in the run game, and we need to make sure we are executing in all our other aspects of the passing game by throwing to running backs, tight ends, Mike Moore and Tavarres (King) and Rantavious. Really, just being productive all the way across the board," Richt said. "I think that will free up A.J. even more the same way it kind of worked out with Arkansas. There's going to be a lot of attention on A.J. with anybody we play, and we need to be able to take advantage of other match ups that we can find with other guys we have."