UGA’s Green, OSU’s Bryant among best
By David Hale
ATHENS — There was no slacking off during the preseason for Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox. With each long practice session or tedious meeting in the film room, there was the specter of Georgia receiver A.J. Green looming over the proceedings.
“That’s my focus,” Cox said. “I watch film, and that’s all coach talks about when we’re tired. ‘You’re tired? Well, A.J. Green ain’t tired.’ It’s our motivation.”
A thousand miles away, Georgia’s defensive backs are losing sleep for the same reasons. While Green offers an enormous challenge for Oklahoma State, the Cowboys have one of the country’s top receiving threats, too, in junior Dez Bryant.
The two won’t be going head-to-head Saturday, but their presence already has been felt in the opposing locker rooms, and their skills already have helped their teammates prepare for the challenges.
“A.J.’s a similar type of player, so he gives us a great look,” Georgia safety Reshad Jones said. “You get to see a great player like that. Knowing that we’ve got to face another great player, it puts us a little bit ahead.”
Green expects more
Green is Georgia’s top returning offensive weapon, and after a breakout freshman campaign a year ago in which he tallied an SEC-best 963 receiving yards. A lingering groin injury and a novice understanding of the playbook may have hindered his performance last season, so Green said he expects to produce even more this year.
That might put him on par with the numbers Bryant posted in his sophomore season. The Oklahoma State receiver caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, finishing as the runner up for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.
Those credentials are enough evidence that Bryant is a worthy adversary in the preparation to stop Green, Cowboys cornerback Terrance Anderson said.
“I go against, in my opinion, the No. 1 receiver in the country every day, so this is just another step to try and prove that our secondary is getting better and better,” Anderson said.
The debate may rage on between defensive backs as to which player is tougher to defend, but the primary players in the drama aren’t participating.
Green said he has watched highlights of Bryant’s performances on YouTube, but, beyond that, he doesn’t know a whole lot about his counterpart in Oklahoma.
Bryant offers some praise of Green’s game, too, but he isn’t buying in to the competition.
“I’m really not trying to make a statement,” Bryant said. “It’s up to the fans and what they think. I just want to go out there and perform and help our team and hopefully come out with a victory.”
After watching enough game film during the past month to give any defensive back nightmares, Jones said it’s not easy to find many distinctions between the two.
With that in mind, Martinez had Green run routes against Georgia’s defensive backs throughout the past few weeks of practice. That’s a divergence from the Bulldogs’ typical style. But with several young cornerbacks, including new starter Brandon Boykin, in the mix for playing time Saturday, the experience of going against Georgia’s version of Bryant was invaluable.
“It helps us tremendously playing against A.J,” Martinez said. “The thing that jumps out at you for both is how outstanding ball skills they have. It just seems like they come down with the ball every time it’s in the air near them — no matter where.”
Martinez said it’s hard to tell how Bryant might line up Saturday. After losing star tight end Brandon Pettigrew to the NFL draft, Martinez thinks the Cowboys might have a few new wrinkles in their game plan.
The key, according to Boykin, is playing physical at the line of scrimmage. Slow Bryant down early, the theory goes, and there’s an opportunity to disrupt the play.
For Oklahoma State, the task of stopping Green won’t be simple either. The sophomore has spent the offseason studying the offense and expects to be moved around to different positions to provide the Cowboys’ defense with a few looks it hasn’t seen. That has Cox a little nervous.
“Green, he’s a talented receiver all-around,” Cox said. “Me and the other corners and safeties have got to go in prepared and ready. You look at him and every game, they’re sending him deep and he catches some wild passes. We’ve just got to go in and defend him.”
With receivers as good as Green and Bryant, sometimes the specifics don’t matter, Boykin said. It’s just a matter of getting the job done by any means necessary.
“It’s just having that mind-set that you’ve got to stop him,” Boykin said. “There’s really no strategy; you’ve just got to make it happen.”