Georgia football-wide receivers-2021
Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Georgia needs wide receivers to deliver in pivotal 2021 season

According to Pro Football Focus, the Georgia Bulldogs have the third-best wide receiver duo in the country entering the 2021 season.

That duo of Dominick Blaylock and Arik Gilbert, have played a combined zero snaps together. Blaylock hasn’t played since December of 2019, when he tore his ACL against LSU. He then re-tore that same ACL last August.

Gilbert spent last season at a different school, LSU, playing a different position, tight end. He transferred into Georgia in June.

“I think next year really will be those two guys’ year,” former Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards said. “I just think they’re a year from being the top duo. But it just goes to show you the talent they have in that room.”

The Pro Football Focus ranking speaks to the raw talent in the room. By listing Gilbert and Blaylock as the top duo, it ignores more proven wide receivers like Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson. There are also young up-and-comers in Arian Smith, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Justin Robinson and Adonai Mitchell.

That’s all before mentioning George Pickens, who would’ve been one of the best receivers in the country had he not torn his ACL in March. His status for the 2021 season is very much unknown.

The group will be catching passes from JT Daniels, a quarterback who similarly enters the 2021 season with great levels of hype. The ceiling of the wide receiver room will undoubtedly be raised by getting to work with Daniels this season.

But this group of wide receivers needs to turn that potential into tangible production in 2021. Whether it comes from Gilbert, Burton, Jackson or whoever, Kirby Smart needs to get on-field results from the position group this season.

Wide receiver play has been a significant reason Alabama, LSU and Clemson have taken home the last three national titles. Looking even more closely at LSU and Alabama, those teams had multiple first-round draft picks at the position. In today’s day and age, great wide receiver play is going to trump great defensive back play, as Georgia can attest to first hand.

Jackson led Georgia in receiving yards last season with 514. He and Pickens both tied for the team-lead in receptions with 36. Those numbers need to be much higher for next season.

There is also an off-field impact to consider with Georgia’s wide receivers. One only has to look at the recent decision from 4-star wide receiver Kojo Antwi. The No. 13 player in the state of Georgia elected to commit to Ohio State, despite filling a massive position of need for the home-state Bulldogs.

Why did Antwi pick Ohio State? He explained that to DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell.

“Coach [Brian] Hartline,” he said. “The receiver room that they have over there. He’s developing them and sending two first-rounders to the league next year and possibly another two the next year. He’s all about detail as well.”

Related: 4-star WR Kojo Antwi commits to Ohio State on his Mom’s birthday

Since Smart became the head coach, Mecole Hardman has been the only wide receiver taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. That could start to change as the likes of Pickens, Burton and Jackson get closer to finishing their NFL careers.

All three of those wide receivers — along with Blaylock, Gilbert, Rosemy-Jacksaint and Smith — were all top-150 prospects in their respective recruiting classes.

In past seasons, particularly 2019, talent and experience were issues for the position. The former definitely isn’t the case anymore. It was evident in the first game Daniels stepped under center in 2020.

“If you have George Pickens and Jermaine Burton, if you’re not going to throw it up to them, don’t recruit them,” Daniels said after his 400-yard performance against Mississippi State.

“If you’re gonna give a one-on-one with George, Jermaine, Kearis and all our guys, I’m probably going to make you want to try and stop it.”

Related: Returning production numbers provide optimism about Georgia football in 2021

Georgia may not need to have the No. 3 ranked wide receiver duo to accomplish its goals this season. The Bulldogs should have a great defense and a very good running game this year, making them one of the most complete teams in the country.

But for a variety of reasons, the Bulldogs need the entire group to take a big step forward in 2021. This has to be the season that Georgia’s wide receiver shows it is on par with that of the other elite offenses in the country.

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