ATHENS — A.J. Green says summer workouts with his new Georgia teammates gave him a head start in learning pass routes.
The workouts also gave Georgia players a sneak preview of Green, one of the nation’s top-rated recruits at receiver, and they quickly began spreading the word of the new kid’s big-play skills.
Senior Mohamed Massaquoi bragged about Green at the Southeastern Conference media days, telling reporters Green could become one of the top receivers in the league.
Other players gave glowing reports from the informal summer workouts to coach Mark Richt and his staff, who were eager to see the 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver with the much-hyped leaping ability and speed.
By the time Green had a chance to participate in his first workout this week, he had heard all the hype.
As it turns out, Green may have tried too hard on his first day to show the hype was no exaggeration.
Green said he tried to make a good showing “with all the coaches out there,” but he fell victim to rookie nerves in his first workout on Monday.
“Everybody builds you up like some big-time recruit,” he said, shaking his head. “There were a lot of nerves out there.”
Slowed by nerves and a slight groin injury, Green had to write off the first practice as a learning experience. But Green isn’t being rushed by Richt, as receiver is a deep position for Georgia, which also has depth at other spots after finishing last year ranked second in the nation.
Massaquoi and Kenneth Harris are projected starters as seniors in a receiving corps that also returns Kris Durham, Tony Wilson, Michael Moore and Demiko Goodman.
“Since I’ve been here at Georgia this is probably the most amount of guys who are game-ready,” Richt said. “Hopefully a couple of more guys will add to that — a couple of young guys.”
Richt didn’t name Green, but that wasn’t necessary.
Georgia lost 2007 senior Sean Bailey, who led an 11-2 team with 39 catches for 615 yards and five touchdowns.
Green, from Summerville (S.C.) High, may have an opportunity to help replace Bailey.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw to Green during the summer workouts, says he’s looking forward to the freshman using his height and leaping ability to make catches.
“He definitely knows what to do when the ball is in the air,” Stafford said. “He goes and gets it pretty well. I’m pretty excited. He’s a guy who wants to work hard and wants to play.
“He’s fast. He’s a big, tall guy who can go get it.”
Green says even with the summer practices, he needs time to adjust to Stafford’s strong arm.
“In high school I didn’t have a quarterback who put this much heat on it, so I have to get used to it,” he said, adding that one of the first lessons was painful.
“I was relaxing and my hands were relaxing and the ball just shot through and hit me right in the face,” he said.
But he said catching Stafford’s fastball shouldn’t be a problem.
“I don’t believe throwing the ball hard is a problem,” he said. “If you can catch it, you can catch it.”
Green caught 72 passes for 1,437 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior at Summerville, where he was a four-time all-state pick in South Carolina by The Associated Press and was rated by Scout.com as the No. 2 high school receiver and No. 10 overall prospect in the nation.
“He has a ton of potential, a ton of talent,” said tight end Tripp Chandler, another top returning target for Stafford. “If he learns this offense, I think he can be a part of our offense this season. With his ability to jump and run routes and his quickness, he just has a ton of talent. I’ve been really impressed with him.”
Green says Massaquoi, the team’s top returning receiver, is “like my big brother.”
Green also says Randy Moss was his favorite NFL receiver but added “I’m not a troublemaker. We’re alike on the field and stuff like that.”