Grounding Green

The Georgia team that visits Neyland Stadium this Saturday afternoon may be a one-trick pony, but the stud of its stable is a real thoroughbred.

Like Tennessee, which relies heavily on tailback Montario Hardesty, Georgia essentially has one offensive weapon. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, A.J. Green is probably the best receiver in college football.

Green leads the Southeastern Conference in receptions per game (6.0), receiving yards per game (105.4) and receiving touchdowns (5). He's tied for fourth in SEC scoring (6.4 points per game) and boasts an imposing 17.6 yards-per-catch average. Oh, yeah ... he blocked a potential go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter of the Dawgs' defeat of Arizona State two weeks ago.

"He just does it all," Tennessee safety Eric Berry said. "He blocks, he runs all the routes - the short ones, the ones across the middle, the deep ones. He's just a complete wide receiver, so whenever it's a run play he's going to come just like it's a pass and he's getting the ball. That's one of the hardest thing to defend in a wide receiver."

In addition to good speed, good hands and superior athleticism, Green boasts a physically imposing 6-4, 207-pound frame.

"His size helps him a lot," Berry said. "He has long arms and a very good vertical. You saw him block that kick the other week."

Green showcased his extraordinary agility in the final minutes of Georgia's game with LSU last weekend, leaping over a perfectly positioned defensive back to reel in the go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:09 to play.

For all of his physical gifts, though, what probably separates Green from the crowd is his determination to exploit them to their fullest extent.

"Man, he's one of those wide receivers who comes off the ball every play, whether it's a run, a pass or a screen play," Berry said. "You never know if he's getting the ball or not because he's running his routes full speed, he's blocking full speed. And he has long arms, so even if you're in position to make a play, you'd better use proper technique because he has those long arms to get up there and grab the ball."

First-year Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin, though new to the SEC, already developed a healthy respect for A.J. Green.

"He is really dynamic," Kiffin said. "He has the ability to go up and make plays with the ball. Then, once he has it in his hands, he is like a little guy. He's so quick, and there are so many missed tackles on him."

Basically, the best way to stop the Bulldog pass-catching whiz is to flatten Georgia's quarterback before he can launch the ball in Green's direction. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the Vols haven't registered a sack in the past two games. So, Big Orange cornerbacks could be in for a long afternoon this Saturday.

"He's almost impossible to defend; that's why his numbers are the way that they are," Kiffin said. "A number of people are going to have to do a great job. And, obviously, it would help to get our pass rush back, too."


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