ATHENS, Ga. — All season, he has been Georgia’s secret weapon on offense, but Branden Smith is hoping his role on that side of the ball can continue to expand in Georgia’s bowl game and beyond.
Used primarily as a reserve cornerback, Smith has done a little of everything in his freshman season — returning kicks, running the Wildcat, playing wide receiver and working out of the backfield. That role on the offensive side of the ball is something he’d like to see more of starting with Georgia’s bowl game against Texas A&M.
“I really hope so,” Smith said. “I would like to play offense a lot more during the bowl game. I think I deserve it. Our offense has been on a roll, so I really hope they use me more on offense.”
Smith finished the season with 17 carries for 211 yards rushing and two catches for 7 yards, including two big plays for touchdowns against South Carolina and Tennessee Tech.
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The problem, however, has been Smith’s ballhandling. He has two fumbles on special teams this season that were recovered by the opposition, and he has put the ball on the ground on offense, as well. So despite his tremendous athleticism, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he’s not ready to hand the ball to Smith with regularity until his fumbling problems are under control.
“He’s got to hang on to the ball,” Bobo said. “If he hangs on to the ball, he’ll get more of a role. Right now, laying it on the ground, he’s a bit more limited. We’ll still have things this game, but he’s got to hang on to the football to be able to carry the football.”
Beyond holding on to the football, Smith faces the challenge of adjusting to a new defensive coordinator and secondary coach next season, and his time on the defensive side of the ball had already been limited so he could work with the offense, too.
But while this season hasn’t been perfect, Smith has shown he can be a dangerous weapon in all three aspects of the game, and that’s something he expects to continue.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Smith said. “I think I played pretty good but not as good as I expected. Next year I’m going to be coming into the season with my mind-set and my goals high.”
Davis sprains ankle
Heralded as one of the saviors of Georgia’s running game, right tackle Josh Davis could be in jeopardy of missing the Independence Bowl with a sprained ankle.
Davis, who was inserted into the starting lineup against Vanderbilt, helped revitalize Georgia’s offensive line and sparked a renewed rushing attack, he but injured his ankle during Wednesday’s practice. He has not practiced since, but coach Mark Richt said the team is hopeful that Davis will be able to play by the time the Bulldogs hit the field against Texas A&M on Dec. 28.
“He’s not practicing right now but the good news is that there’s a lot of time between now and then and no other obligations but to get treatment two or three times a day,” Richt said. “We’re all hopeful.”
Clint Boling opened the season at right tackle but has since moved to the left side, meaning Justin Anderson or Vince Vance would be the likely replacements if Davis is unable to play.
“Right now I think we’d put Vince in there first, but that doesn’t mean that’s how it will go,” Richt said. “But between Vince and (Anderson), that would be the next logical choice.”
Geathers on the go?
Richt has lauded freshman defensive tackle Kwame Geathers for his efforts to get his body into shape this season, and Geathers even earned the defensive scout team player of the year award at the Bulldogs’ annual end-of-season gala, but defensive tackles coach Rodney Garner said the future remains a bit unclear for the freshman.
Geathers arrived late this fall after a delay in his academic qualification by the NCAA, and he struggled badly with his conditioning early on. He has shed more than 35 pounds from his frame since then, however, and Garner said Geathers is ready for playing time next year.
Garner’s just not sure whether that action will come on offense or defense.
“I think Kwame’s worked really hard,” Garner said. “He’s a great young man. We’ve just got to find a spot that he can help the team the quickest.”
Asked if that meant a transition to the offensive line could be in store for Geathers, Garner said it was a possibility, but nothing had been determined so far.
“He could play anywhere,” Garner said. “We’ve just got to find the best place for him and wherever is the best place for the team.”
Making the grade
While fall semester grades are still trickling in for Georgia’s players, Richt said he doesn’t anticipate any problems among the team in remaining eligible to play in the bowl game.
“I’ve heard no concern that we’re on the ropes with anybody,” Richt said. “Usually by now if there was something cooking I would have heard something from an academic counselor that we’re waiting on this one with pins and needles. I don’t think we’re in that situation.”