ATHENS, Ga. — Although he is older than quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno, senior receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is not Georgia’s vocal offensive leader.
“Knowshon is kind of the Energizer bunny. He’s always saying something,” Massaquoi said Tuesday. “Me and Matthew are a little more laid back. We kind of talk when we have to, but we all kind of have our individual leadership roles and will step up when we need to.”
Massaquoi is the team’s top returning receiver, having caught 32 passes last season for 491 yards and four touchdowns. He had an 84-yard score against Florida and a 53-yard score against Auburn, but his overall numbers failed to equal what he compiled as a freshman and kept him off the magazine covers.
Moreno and Stafford recently shared the Sports Illustrated front with senior linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
“Those guys are like my brothers, and you always want to pull for your brothers to have success,” Massaquoi said. “They’re the best teammates you could ask for, really.”
Massaquoi quickly took freshman A.J. Green under his wing this summer, and Green is now backing him up at flanker.
“I think Mohamed is one of our better leaders because not only does he take care of himself, but he has a compassion for the rest of his teammates,” coach Mark Richt said. “He keeps an eye on what’s going on and is kind of a keeper of the gate.
“He does a good job of motivating guys, and when players do that to other players, that’s when you’ve got something pretty special going on.”
Out of the hunt
It may be Saturday before Georgia’s primary punt returner is revealed, but Moreno is out of the running.
“Knowshon had a spell there where he didn’t get any reps,” Richt said. “I guess he kind of fell by the wayside. He just didn’t get some of the work at the end, but I wouldn’t count him out before the end of the year.”
Said Moreno: “That’s for the coaches to decide. I wouldn’t mind being back there catching a few, but I can’t really see that right now.”
Asher Allen and Ramarcus Brown are handling kickoff returns.
Not so fast
Asked Tuesday if this was his fastest defense, Richt made no declarations and revisited his first season.
“I was watching us play Tennessee back in 2001 not long ago, and we counted like 15 guys on that defense that went on to play in the NFL,” he said. “Almost every single guy on that tape went to the NFL and played and started at one point.”
That was a year after Georgia lost defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour and linebacker Kendrell Bell, leading Richt to describe those two years as pretty impressive.
Odds and ends
Richt expects eight to 12 true freshmen to play Saturday. Georgia played 12 true freshmen in 2002 and nine in ’03 but hasn’t used more than six in any season since. ... Georgia is 63-15-1 in home openers and has won 11 straight dating back to an 11-7 loss to Southern Miss in 1996 — Jim Donnan’s first game as coach. ... Saturday’s captains are Stafford and tight end Tripp Chandler on offense, Ellerbe on defense and punter Brian Mimbs on special teams. ... Richt said the early range limit for freshman kicker Blair Walsh is around 52 yards.