November 11, 2009

Does Green have edge on Tigers?

When Georgia offensive coaches go about the business of breaking down the matchups to find some kind of edge against Auburn, no doubt they will be looking at safety Demond Washington.

Injuries in the Tigers' secondary have head coach Gene Chizik to make some changes, including moving the 5-9 Washington from corner to safety.

Considering the fact that Georgia's top three receivers - A.J. Green, Tavarres King and Mike Moore - come in at 6-1 or better, the advantage would seem to be on the Bulldogs' side. Or is it?

"You are trying to find certain matchups, so if we are in a three-receiver set and they are playing some of man-coverage scheme, he'll be covering somebody man-to-man," head coach Mark Richt said. "He's (Washington) also their nickel guy where he ends up on the third receiver even as a nickel. Of course, we've seen him in coverage already with the wide receivers. We've had some 5-9 corners that would match up with the tall guys. The reason those guys can play is because they can leap. They have good ball skills; they are competitors. I don't see it being all that unusual or being that big of a deal, really."

What is a big deal is the fact Georgia will Green back he missed last week's game against Tennessee Tech with a bruised lung suffered two weeks ago against Florida.

Tuesday, Green indicated that he probably could have played against the Golden Eagles, but team trainers didn't want to risk further injury and not have the sophomore available for Georgia's final three games.

Although missing last week was difficult, Green said the time off has him in the best shape that he's been all year.

"I'm fresh, I'm ready to go," Green said. "I'm just ready to get out there and play."

Georgia certainly likes its chances much better with Green in the lineup.

Despite sitting out, Green still leads the SEC in receiving yards per game (91.5) and receptions per game (5.5) while his 732 yards rank second in the league. That could be bad news for Auburn.

Last year, Green caught a 17-yarder from Matthew Stafford for the go-ahead touchdown with 8:24 left to play. He finished with five catches for 81 yards.

This year, Green's numbers have come despite constant double-teams and defensive packages designed specifically to slow down the 6-4 receiver, which is why quarterback Joe Cox expects nothing less from the Tigers who rank ninth in the SEC in pass defense (191.1 yards per game).

"A lot of teams play Cover-2 to A.J.'s side and roll the safety to his side," Cox said. "It's been a funny year. You watch people on film, see what they do, what their tendencies are then they come out and do something totally different for A.J., so I'm not sure how that's going to work out. It's all going to depend on what coverage they use to try and stop A.J.; that will determine what we try to do in the passing game."

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is impressed by what he sees in the Tigers' secondary.

Besides Washington, Auburn has what Bobo feels is one of the conference's best corners in senior Walter McFadden along with sophomore Neiko Thorpe, who at 6-2 and 176 is one of the taller corners Georgia will face this year.

Freshman Daren Bates (5-11, 195) is the other safety opposite Washington who is 5-9, 185.

"Most stereotypical safeties are a little bigger, but I don't think that dictates what kind of player you're going to be," Bobo said. "There a lot of 5-9, 5-10 guys in the NFL. They're not afraid to make plays and he (Washington) has got the cover skills to play corner."

Bobo added that McFadden and Thorpe bring their own unique set of challenges.

"McFadden's got long arms and good speed and good ball skills when the ball's in the air. He's not afraid to play in your face," Bobo said. "Both corners have long arms. Although A.J. has a slight height advantage they can make it difficult for him to catch the ball."

Green remembers McFadden well.

"I think he's pretty good," Green said. "But as far as everything else, I really don't pay attention. I just go after them."

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