Green Not Superman... Yet

ATHENS – It didn't take long for A.J. Green to realize he wasn't Superman.

Sure, the hype surrounding the five-star recruit stirred plenty of excitement Monday as Georgia began preseason camp, but by Tuesday, the main attraction was relegated to sideshow status, sitting out of practice with what head coach Mark Richt described as a minor hip flexor injury.

It was an inauspicious start to camp, and Green – the superstar wide receiver in waiting – learned quickly just how humbling an experience SEC football can be.

"I think I've got a lot of learning to do," he said.

Richt said the injury wasn't a conditioning issue, but was likely caused by running new routes he hadn't done before. Green could be practicing again as soon as today.

Those new routes Green ran Monday earned plenty of taunts from his coaches. If he reeled in a ball, his route was wrong. If his cuts were tight, the ball tipped off his fingers.

While onlookers gasped as Green's skill set, the coaches reminded him he was still a freshman.

"They're just going to mess with you to see how mentally tough you are, and if you crack under that, they know, he ain't ready," redshirt freshman receiver Israel Troupe said. "(Green) let it go in one ear and out the other, so I was proud of him."

Learning the offense may take some time, but in terms of natural ability, there's not much the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Green can't do.

He's speedy, he's tall and he's physical. During his senior season at Summerville High in South Carolina, he averaged 20 yards per catch and hauled in 15 touchdowns. He earned raves from scouts and recruiters, and has already impressed his teammates.

"He has a ton of potential, a ton of talent, and if he learns this offense, I think he could be a part of our offense this season," tight end Tripp Chandler said. "With his ability to jump, run routes and his quickness, he just has a ton of talent."

During a route-running drill Monday, Matt Stafford, Georgia's star quarterback, dropped back and reeled off a scorching pass a few inches behind Green. The freshman twisted his body, reached out his long arms and hauled the pass in without missing a step.

It was a picture perfect vision of what Georgia fans hope is the future of the Bulldogs' air attack.

"I think he's got the potential to be a great receiver," Stafford said of Green. "He's a young guy, he doesn't know the offense yet, but he definitely knows what to do when the ball's in the air. He goes and gets it pretty well, and I'm excited about working with him."

The feeling is mutual, Green said, although the first few passes Stafford threw at him during the offseason served as yet another lesson that Georgia football was a notch above anything Green had experienced before.

Throwing the ball around over the summer, Green got his first taste of Stafford's cannon arm – one that Green said was just a tad stronger than his high school quarterback displayed.

"I was relaxed, my hands were relaxed, and the ball just hit me in the face," Green said.

Despite the painful start to their relationship, the expectations for the Stafford-to-Green connection couldn't be much higher.

Georgia's wide receiver corps in 2008 is deep, but outside of senior Mohamed Massaquoi, the Bulldogs lack a star pass catcher. That's a void fans are hoping Green can fill.

"Mohamed is really good with his hands, really quick," defensive back Asher Allen said. "Kenneth Harris is a big body, able to move that big body. Kris Durham is tall, lanky but can catch fast. I think A.J. has a little bit of everybody's best qualities in him."

That's high praise for a player who has yet to make it through a full practice unscathed. But while stardom may still be a little ways off, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the Bulldogs will definitely find a role for Green in this year's offense.

"He's definitely going to be a threat for us, it's just how fast he can pick things up and there are certain things he might not be ready for," Bobo said. "We've got to find a role to develop him and give him a chance to succeed. It might not be the whole offense, but we'll give him something he's comfortable doing."

What Green is most comfortable doing, however, is simply going after the football. His game, he said, is modeled after his favorite receiver, Randy Moss.

"He's just one of those guys," Stafford said, "that can kind of turn it on when the ball's in the air."


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