It was not long ago that Georgia possessed some of the deepest talent in the SEC at the receiver position. In fact, it was just three years ago. Year after year, the Dawgs would put up some of the best numbers in the conference. With guys like Hines Ward, Champ Bailey, Terrance Edwards and AJ Green coming through the program then quickly repositioning into the NFL, one would expect that new talent would hustle in, spurred by the opportunity to be the next flair at split end.
But for the first time since 2006, Georgia is looking for answers at the wide receiver position.
Last season, Bulldog receivers stockpiled a total of 2,017 yards, good for tenth in the SEC and the least amount compiled since the ’06 receivers collected 1,851 yards.
It was pretty evident that the Dawgs’ offense would take a hit after the loss of Nick Chubb in Week 6 at Tennessee, but it was more of an impact than Dawg fans expected.
The Bulldogs eclipsed 200 yards only once through the air in the remaining seven games, and failed to have a receiver break 100 yards until Malcolm Mitchell broke out for 114 in the Tax Slayer Bowl Game against Penn State.
Georgia was also one of two teams in the SEC to not have a pass play exceed 50 yards. Georgia Tech, their triple option rival from Atlanta whose signal callers completed a total of 81 passes on the season, had two such plays.
Youth plays a large part in the decline in production.
In 2013, five of the six leading receivers were upperclassmen; the lone sophomore was the man named Todd Gurley. Last season, the Bulldogs only had three receivers (Reggie Davis, Jay Rome, Kenneth Towns) that recorded a catch who were also on that 2013 roster.
Georgia’s leading receiver heading into this season is junior tight end Jeb Blazevich, who has amassed a total of 413 career receiving yards. Sophomore receiver Terry Godwin came on strong near the end of last season and is expected to take over Mitchell’s role as number one wide out, but has only hauled in 35 passes, which was 23 less than Mitchell’s team leading 58 in 2016.
The rest of the returning bunch includes Michael Chigbu, Reggie Davis, Jayson Stanley, Isaiah McKenzie and Shakenneth Williams. None surpassed 12 receptions last season.
All that being said, there is hope on the horizon, and it starts with the incoming freshman class.
Along with five-star tight end recruit Isaac Nauta, the Dawgs bring in six freshman receivers to bolster it’s already young receiving corps. Included in those six freshman is athlete Mecole Hardman, who took snaps under center in high school but could emerge as a deep ball threat for this Georgia team.
Riley Ridley, brother of Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley, Tyler Simmons, Javon Wims and Charlie Woerner round up the incoming class, who look to make an impact in their first year in red and black.
For what it’s worth, the Bulldog’s offense did show up in the team’s spring game last month. In large credit to freshman quarterback Jacob Eason, Georgia receivers put up numbers like it was 2013, and looked comfortable in this offense, which for the first time in 15 years wasn’t composed by Mark Richt.
|Jayson Stanley||4 catches for 87 yards|
|Michael Chigbu||2 catches for 10 yards|
|Jordan Davis||2 catches for 36 yards|
|Christian Payne||3 catches for 41 yards, TD|
|Tae Crowder||1 catch for 9 yards|
|Sony Michel||1 catch for 15 yards|
|Shakenneth Williams||2 catches for 29 yards|
|Matt Price||2 catches for 16 yards|
|Terry Godwin||2 catches for 25 yards|
|Jackson Harris||7 catches for 53 yards|
|Isaac Nauta||6 catches for 56 yards, TD|
|Reggie Davis||6 catches for 134 yards|
|Brendan Douglas||5 catches 48 yards|
|Riley Ridley||4 catches for 68 yards|
|Isaiah McKenzie||1 catch for 12 yards|
|Turner Fortin||1 catch for 9 yards|
It goes without saying that this is a very small sample size generated by a controlled, offensive-friendly scrimmage, but seeing a consistent stream of passes and big plays can bode confidence within an offense.
As of right now, the Dawgs aren’t in the most ideal spot when it comes to receivers. However, out of all the teams in the SEC, they have the most upside.
Blazevich and Nauta have the ability to be the league’s top tight end duo and have already jelled in the short months they’ve been together.
McKenzie, who is one of the SEC’s most elite playmakers with the ball in his hands, should get a few more reps at slot receiver with Godwin’s move to split end, while Chigbu and Stanley will step up and are expected to play bigger roles at the flanker position in their respected sophomore runs.
The most interesting of the group is Javon Wims, a JUCO transfer who had 779 receiving yards in nine games at Hinds College in Mississippi. The 6-foot-4, 215 pounder could be that go to, big bodied receiver that the Dawgs are pleading for, but his transition to the FBS game is up in the air considering the Florida native’s inexperience.
Georgia has never been a hot bed for high receiving numbers. Even after Herschel Walker caught his final toss sweep in 1982, Georgia proved to be a run first team, and continued to produce some of college football’s best tailbacks.
But names like Scott, Gibson, Pope, Massaquoi and Conley will forever echo through Sanford Stadium and in the minds of Georgia fans, as they seek out who will be the next favorite Bulldog flanker.
They’re just hoping that this years class will produce.
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