By the Numbers: Examining Demetris Robertson’s role in UGA’s offense
Georgia football fans can get their statistical fix each week with By the Numbers — a stats-based look at how UGA coach Kirby Smart is doing in his attempt to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC and continue the program’s pursuit of a national championship. This week’s edition of By the Numbers looks at Georgia wide receiver Demetris Robertson’s role in the Bulldogs’ offense.
Not everyone saw all they wanted from Georgia last week in its 41-17 blowout win vs. South Carolina. With 9:30 to go in the third quarter, and with the Bulldogs already up 17 points, CBS color analyst Gary Danielson suggested something was missing from UGA’s offense.
“Haven’t seen much of Demetris Robertson… have we?” Danielson asked.
It makes sense that Danielson would be looking for Robertson to make an impact. Robertson transferred to UGA in July from California — where he as a freshman All-American in 2016 after signing with the Golden Bears as a 5-star recruit. Robertson had also dazzled with a 72-yard touchdown run on his first touch for UGA the previous Saturday vs. Austin Peay.
Some reporters apparently also thought Robertson was missing in action vs. the Gamecocks. But when UGA coach Kirby Smart was asked about Robertson, Smart disagreed with the sentiment.
“He played a lot,” Smart said after the game, before explaining why Robertson didn’t record a catch. “He just got into situations where he was blocking. He had a couple of times when they had passes called, but the read went the other way. [but] I saw him out there a lot.”
Was Robertson indeed “out there a lot” vs. the Gamecocks? The answer is complicated.
A review of the TV broadcast indicates Robertson took 23 snaps as a receiver — third-most among his position group — but 13 of Robertson’s snaps came after UGA built a 34-10 lead.
Robertson also played the third-most snaps at receiver vs. Austin Peay (19), but he isn’t one of the seven UGA wide receivers who’ve recorded catches thus far this season, and Robertson is yet to be targeted for a reception.
It seems fair to say Robertson isn’t yet a major part of the Bulldogs offense. On Monday, Smart offered a possible explanation as to why.
“At the end of the day when you turn the tape on, the guys that get open are going to be the guys that play,” Smart said. “South Carolina did a good job of pressing some of our guys. It was a good thing we could run the ball because they had their hands on a lot of our wideouts and creating separation is important.”
That remark could be an indication Robertson isn’t being as physical as Smart would prefer his receivers to be, but there’s also a couple other possible explanations for his limited role.
First of all, UGA doesn’t throw the ball to any receiver much. The Bulldogs enter week three 80th in the country and 10th in the SEC with 213 passing yards per game, and running backs have been the intended target on 30 percent of the pass plays.
Also, despite UGA’s penchant for running the ball, another wideout — junior Mecole Hardman — might be emerging as a breakout star and earning some touches that could’ve originally been conceived for Robertson. (Hardman averages 20.75 yards per reception through two games, sixth-best in the SEC.)
Ultimately, whether or not Robertson lives up to the hype as a heralded transfer might not seem too important to some — especially if UGA keeps winning. However, a recent trend demonstrates how crucial an elite wide receiver can be.
No team has won a national championship in the College Football Playoff era without a wideout collecting at least 931 receiving yards. Robertson — given his history at California, and despite his slow start at UGA — might still eventually be UGA’s best candidate to do that this season.
That’s why so many are watching him so closely. They want to see him become comfortable in UGA’s offense, embrace the physical style of the SEC and eventually collect more receptions.
Smart explained that process bluntly.
“He’s going to have to compete in practice. We’ll always play the best players here, and when those guys are at the top of their game we’ll have a good rotation going.”