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Defensive back shows skills on offense at UGA

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POSTED: April 20, 2011 9:47 a.m.

ATHENS — One of Georgia’s most improved defensive players of spring football made a bigger impact on offense in Saturday’s G-Day game.

With the so-called "Dream Team" recruiting class coming in the fall, Branden Smith just wants to make sure he is in the lineup.

Cornerback Smith scored the game’s first touchdown as a pass receiver in helping the Black team beat the Red team, 18-11.

Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said that the hoopla surrounding the heralded recruiting class has energized the veterans.

"I want to emphasize that none of these recruits have been promised any starting job," Richt said. "Just an opportunity.

"But I think they will make a big impact," he continued. "They are very talented. I don’t think they are coming in here thinking that I just want to wait my turn. So a lot of the veterans are already preparing hard in anticipation of those guys showing up. We have let it be known that no one’s job is safe."

Smith received accolades as one of the most improved defensive players of the spring. On defense Saturday, he had one tackle. On offense, he carried the ball twice for seven yards and had two receptions for 38 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown reception when he tight-roped the sideline.

"Branden had an awesome spring," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I told him early in the week that if he had a pick on Tuesday or Thursday in practice that I would get him the ball 10 times. He is such an explosive player. I wish I could have him all the time."

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is in no mood to surrender Smith to the offense.

"Any time you can make plays, and he is a playmaker, you look at what he can do to score points," Grantham said. "If there is a package for him on offense, we will work with it."

Few definitive questions were answered in Saturday’s scrimmage. No tailback emerged as the clear-cut leader, and no wideout stepped up to fill the huge void left by A.J. Green’s departure to the first-round riches of the upcoming NFL draft.

Carlton Thomas was the leading ground gainer, picking up 48 yards on 13 carries, including a 5-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that put the Reds ahead, 11-10. But Thomas also fumbled twice, including on the Black 2-yard line to spoil a 73-yard drive at the opening of the game.

Ken Malcome, a redshirt freshman tailback, managed 39 yards on seven carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run that clinched the win for the Black team.

As for wideouts, veteran Tavarres King had five catches for 62 yards. Marlon Brown managed four catches for 47 yards, but none of the receivers struck fear in the hearts of the defense like Green did.

Quarterback Aaron Murray completed 12 of 17 passes for 122 yards. His backup, pure freshman Christian LeMay, led the winning drive, but Richt stopped short of categorizing LeMay as a challenger to back up Hutson Mason.

"The only thing that Christian is battling is the playbook," Richt said. "Until you know what you are doing, you can’t compete as a quarterback. He has come a long way and has learned a lot. But I would not even say there is competition now."

The defensive standouts included linebackers Alex Ogletree and Chase Vasser, who had seven tackles each on opposite teams. Walk-on safety Connor Norman impressed with five tackles, three passes broken up and a leaping interception.

"When you watch film, you want to be able to say, ‘That guy is a football player,’" said Richt. "Connor probably caught the eye of our special teams coaches."

Georgia, coming off Richt’s first losing season, 6-7, opens the 2011 season with Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Classic in Atlanta.

"You hope you can show up for a game like that in midseason form," Richt said. "You can’t be a team that is just finding its way."

 

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