Green may leave Vols blue

Nothing keeps fans on their feet, cornerbacks on their toes and opposing coaches on their last nerve quite like a home-run threat at wide receiver.

That's why Tennessee fans, Tennessee cornerbacks and Tennessee staffers will spend much of Saturday afternoon watching Georgia freshman A.J. Green. He's one of those rare wide receivers who is a threat to score every time he touches the football.

Asked for his impression of Green, Vol secondary coach Larry Slade shook his head.

"Wow," he said. "He has great speed. He's an outstanding competitor. That guy can run by you. He's one of those guys that you say, 'Wow, we'd better hold on.' But if you get to playing him too soft, he can beat you in front of you, make you miss and make big plays that way, too.

"Georgia's always had great receivers, but this guy is as good as any of them I've seen."

Even for a secondary as talented and experienced as Tennessee's, containing Green will be an imposing task.

"It is a tremendous challenge," Slade said, diplomatically adding: "along with their other receivers."

As good as those "other receivers" are, the key to Georgia's passing attack clearly is Green. Consider this: The Dawgs are averaging 263.4 passing yards per game, up 65 yards from last year's norm of 198.4 passing yards per game. The quarterback's the same and the receiving corps is essentially the same, so why the 65-yard improvement? Green, that's why. The 6-4, 200-pound rookie is averaging 77.6 receiving yards per game, single-handedly accounting for the increase ... and then some.

Although Green's yards-per-game average is impressive, the number that really catches your eye is his 17.6 yards-per-catch norm. To put that in perspective, consider this: If Georgia has the ball on its 30-yard line, four "average" completions to Green will produce a touchdown. That has Tennessee's defensive coaches more than a little concerned heading into Saturday's 3:30 kickoff at Sanford Stadium.

"The first thing you're thinking is to stop the big play," Slade said, "so sometimes that will soften you up if you're not careful, as far as mixing your coverages and that type of thing."

So how does a team go about trying to contain a big-play guy like Green?

"The most important thing is to stop the run," Slade said. "If you get the run stopped, it makes them one-dimensional and he's a lot easier to handle. When they're two-dimensional and they have the ability to run it and play-action pass, they're tough."

As talented as he is, Green can't catch the ball without someone to throw it on target and on time. The Bulldogs' Matthew Stafford is considered by some pro scouts to be the finest quarterback in college football, even better than 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida.

So, what makes Stafford such a dynamic player?

"His ability to throw it anywhere and his ability to get away from trouble," Slade said. "You'd better stay in coverage because he is very confident that he can throw it anywhere. He'll sprint and throw it back because he has an extremely strong arm.

"He's a veteran. He's been through it, so there's not a lot of things you can show him that he hasn't seen."

Just about the only thing Stafford hasn't seen from an opponent this fall is the ability to shut down A.J. Green.

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