ATHENS — A year ago, Branden Smith had five more touches on offense than he had tackles on defense. But for the speedy cornerback, his sophomore campaign figures to include a lot more time in the defensive backfield — and perhaps a bit less time making plays for the offense.
While Smith is currently listed behind Vance Cuff at corner on Georgia’s depth chart, he still has a strong shot at winning the starting job in the fall, and he would almost certainly be the first defensive back off the bench in nickel situations.
That could complicate things a tad when the Bulldogs’ offensive coaches want to give Smith a chance to get a few touches on that side of the ball this season.
“We want to use Branden offensively still because he was very effective,” head coach Mark Richt said. “But he will probably be getting a lot more work on the defensive side of the ball, and he may very well be the starter by the time the season rolls around.”
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That doesn’t mean the increased workload on defense will necessarily stifle Smith’s potential on offense. Richt said his goal is to make sure Georgia’s most explosive players get a chance to score as often as possible on offense, and that includes the speedy Smith. Just how much Smith sees action on offense, however, likely depends on the progress of Georgia’s other receivers and on Smith’s conditioning in the early part of the season.
“Those first three games are going to be high noon, and it’s going to be tremendously hot,” Richt said. “So we’re going to have to look in his eye and decide if he’s got enough juice to go run that reverse or whatever play and still have the energy he needs to cover guys throughout the ballgame. But I think as the weather cools down, that shouldn’t be a factor.”