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August 18, 2009The comparisons to Champ Bailey began for Branden Smith well before he signed with Georgia back in February of last year.
It was a natural one to make.
Listed in Georgia's media guide at 5-foot-11 and 171 pounds, the five-star player from Washington High boasts many of the same athletic skills that the versatile Bailey took from Athens to become an NFL All-Pro.
Many see Smith has having the same potential. While it remains to be seen if the Atlanta native can reach those same athletic heights, some advice from Bailey has helped put Smith's focus where it needs to be heading into his freshman season with the Dawgs.
"I've worked out with Champ a little bit, and he's taught me a lot," Smith said. "He helps me a lot with technique, but most of the time we just talk."
His message is a simple one.
"He just says for me to take my time and be patient, listen to the veterans, study the playbook, things like that," Smith said. "He's (Bailey) is one of the best in the league right now and I'm trying to get that way in college."
Smith is no stranger to rubbing elbows with current NFL players and stars.
His older brother Darrell Hackney was a former backup quarterback with the Broncos who played in college at UAB. Not very long ago, Smith attended a camp put on by former Georgia wideout and Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward.
"Everyone just tells me to stay humble and work hard," Smith said. "That's what I've been doing; just working hard, listen to the guys who have been here before and be my best to be like them."
Thus far, Smith is paying close attention to Prince Miller, who he's currently working behind at the wide corner position.
"They're (freshmen DBs) are all great athletes," said safety Reshad Jones, who like Smith attended Washington High and played together with Smith one year. "Everybody's been ready to learn, very into learning the defense and always wanting more information. There's a lot that is coming at them fast, but they're picking things up as quickly as possible so hopefully we can get them to the point where they're not thinking so much when they're on the field."
Cornerback won't be the only spot Smith figures to see playing time.
Smith said he's getting opportunities returning kicks and punts, and reportedly took a few handoffs at tailback during Georgia's scrimmage Saturday night at Sanford Stadium.
In high school, Smith caught 32 passes for 1,085 yards, but so far said he has not seen any practice time at wideout.
"I'm just at cornerback right now," Smith said last week. "I'm just taking things day by day, trying to get the basics down pat and executing the plays there."
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