Bama (Natl Champ)
Alabama Crimson Tide (National Championship)
L, 23-26


     So, for anyone who missed it, Tim Tucker of the AJC did a good Spring Practice update this weekend. In it, he references the competition to replace Prince Miller for the primary punt returning duties (Richt has already publicly mentioned that Logan Gray's fair catching duties may not be a thing of the past, but I can't talk about that because I don't want my blog to turn into an expletive laden rant). One of the guys vying for this position is AJ Green. The last time one of the true superstars of the team was returning punts was when Knowshon caught a couple in 2008. That created quite a bit of buzz and excitement but never really materialized into anything more than a rarely used wrinkle, in my opinion, used more to rile up the fans than actually add a new offensive weapon. Back to 2010. AJ returning punts is a little concerning from the injury viewpoint, but this is football here. Anyone can be injured on any play of the game. You can't play scared of injuries, and it should always be the primary objective of the coaches to get the ball into the hands of the players that can make the most difference. There's no doubt AJ is one of, if not, the most dynamic and electric players on the team. Look no further than the Vandy game last year (1:10 mark) to see how dangerous AJ can be in space. Sure, there are some very nice options at punt returner, fast, dynamic athletes like Branden Smith, Rantavious Wooten and Brandon Boykin. But those other guys are vying for playing time at their respective positions and should concentrate more on competition at their primary positions (not to mention Smith and Boykin are the primary kickoff return man as well). Carlton Thomas could be a good option because he is not likely to overcome Caleb King and Washaun Ealey at running back, so he could be a nice contributor at return man.
     Now about my subject line. Could AJ returning punts mean he could potentially launch a Heisman campaign? Everyone knows the Heisman only goes to quarterbacks and running backs, but occasionally a wide receiver can enter the picture. Winning as a wide receiver, however, usually requires having some supplement to just receptions, as evidenced by Tim Brown winning and Larry Fitzgerald not winning. Having a new starter throwing him the ball may impede Green's Heisman chances, but with a veteran offensive line Green may still get enough balls thrown his way. If he can stay healthy and if UGA can stay relevant in the national spotlight (i.e., top 10 ranking and at least playing in the SEC championship), the punt return numbers may be just enough to at least get AJ an invite to New York. Hey, he returned 12 punts for touchdowns in high school, and everything he did at receiver in high school he's been able to replicate at the collegiate level. I don't see any reason why the stat line 60 receptions, 1200 receiving yards, 10 receiving TDs, 20 punt returns, 350 punt return yards, 2 punt return TDs, and let's toss in another blocked FG and a couple Sportscenter-worthy acrobatic catches wouldn't be Heisman worthy. Assumed healthy, I don't see any reason why AJ couldn't deliver that. He'd need there to not be a standout QB or RB and, like I said earlier, he'd need UGA to be nationally relevant, but those are certainly possible. I guess it's a pretty remote possibility, but it would definitely be nice to see a Bulldog up there where we keep seeing all those Trojans, Longhorns and Gators.