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Little T.O. and Mini Moss ready for showdown

POSTED: September 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Paul Connors/The Associated Press

Georgia receiver A.J. Green (8) hauls in a touchdown catch against Arizona State defender Troy Nolan (14) during the second quarter of Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

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ATHENS — A.J. Green can finish the sentence without any help.

Julio Jones is the next coming of Terrell Owens, and your style has been compared to ...

"Randy Moss," Green chimed in, not even waiting for the reporter to complete the analogy.

Large footsteps, to be sure, but these two dynamic freshmen have wasted little time showing why many recruiting services had them ranked 1-2 among receivers coming out of the high school.

Green had eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in No. 3 Georgia's win at Arizona State last weekend. Jones already has three TDs among his 11 catches for the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide.

Saturday night, they'll be on opposite sides for an early season showdown that should start shaking things out in the powerful Southeastern Conference.

"It's kind of surprising to have the big impact that I've had already, especially not knowing the system that well," Green said. "Now, I've got a lot of confidence that I can go out there and play."

Jones must feel the same way, though it's left for others to speak for him; Alabama coach Nick Saban bars freshmen from taking part in media interviews.

"He's played extremely well," quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do: made plays, made catches, made blocks, scored touchdowns. He's doing his job like he's supposed to."

The 6-foot-4 Green first began hearing the comparisons to Moss as a 10th grader in Summerville, S.C. The speed, the side, the leaping ability — it all seemed so familiar.

"Randy Moss is a heck of a receiver. That's a lot of expectations," Green said. "But I just try to stay humble and laugh it off."

Julio was hard to miss, too. Everyone marveled at this kid in Foley, Ala., who looked like a receiver trapped in a tight end's body — another T.O., if you will.

"They're two different type of receivers," Alabama safety Rashad Johnson said. "I think Julio is more physical and probably a lot harder to tackle. This guy (Green) does a great job when the ball is up in the air. He goes up and gets it."

Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) leads the league in rushing offense, which has allowed Jones to ease his way into the offensive mix. He's second on the team in receptions to Nick Walker, but has already shown quite a nose for the end zone.

"You haven't seen all of what Julio can do," Johnson said. "I've seen him in practice every day. If there's a freshman receiver better than him, he's definitely really good."

Well, Green is definitely good, as he showed in that 27-10 victory over Arizona State. After the Sun Devils kicked a field goal to cut Georgia's lead to 14-3 and stir up the home crowd, quarterback Matthew Stafford began looking for his talented freshman.

First, a 23-yard catch. Then, Green found a gap between two defenders and hauled in a 31-yard reception. Finally, the youngster got loose in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.

"Lots of times when you get a guy that tall, maybe he can really run or maybe he can really jump," Stafford said. "To be able to do them both so well, that's pretty special. And he's got great hands. Those three together are a pretty good combination."

Green showed a glimpse of his potential in the first three games, pulling down eight catches for 141 yards and a TD. But the Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0) decided to unleash their freshman on a sweltering night in the desert.

"I just felt like I wasn't getting the ball to him enough," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "He had two or three catches a game, but I was not really directing the ball his way. It was more like whatever the coverage was giving us. I just went into that game and said, 'Hey, I'm going to try to get the ball to him, get it in his hands.' He responded and made some big plays."

Now, Green can expect a lot more attention, as one of his high school coaches pointed out in a text message after the game.

"He was like, 'Good game, now you're going to get double coverage,"' Green said. "Thank you for that."

Jones, also 6-4 and a sturdy 212 pounds, was in Alabama's starting lineup from the very first game. But this might be his first chance to really shine.

Georgia leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 45.8 yards per game. The Bulldogs will surely crowd the line and try to force the Tide to beat them through the air.

Jones could be the anecdote to that strategy, especially facing a team with two starting cornerbacks who check in at under 6 feet.

"You've just got to get physical with him and try to match his intensity," said 5-10 Asher Allen, who will surely find himself matched against the big freshman.

Green committed to Georgia early in his junior year of high school. He never wavered on his decision, even though plenty of schools tried to get him to switch.

"It was just the coaching staff. My parents really liked them and I felt comfortable here," he said. "I'm a pretty firm guy. Once I make up my mind, I'm going to stick to it."

Green shrugged off the rankings coming out of high school, though he does know he was ranked No. 1 by most services after his junior season, only to have Jones move to the top of many lists by the time they finished their prep careers.

"I guess he came out of nowhere," Green said with a sly grin.

Hardly. Junior T.O. and Little Randy are both going places — at basically the same speed.

"It is a little bit unusual," Saban said. "But it does happen on rare occasions where you get a couple of guys coming out at the same time."



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