ATHENS — This time last year, Terry Godwin was a source of pointed criticism from his coach. Kirby Smart felt that Godwin — on paper Georgia’s leading returning receiver — wasn’t doing the little things well enough, wasn’t consistent, just wasn’t doing enough to be good.
A year later, Smart’s tone is completely different. In fact, if there’s one player that he wants to single out for praise now, it’s Terry Godwin.
“I’d be the first to tell you that I was hard on Terry last year,” Smart said. “Terry has grown up. Terry is competitive. He’s had some of the best practices.”
There’s great curiosity and excitement over the newest Georgia receivers, and the youngsters who showed flashes last season. J.J. Holloman, Mark Webb, Trey Blount, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims and Ahkil Crumpton. But it seems clear, less than three weeks before the season begins, that the receiver whose stock is up the most is someone who’s been around awhile.
Godwin is cementing himself as Georgia’s top receiver, and diversifying his role: Look for him to go out of the slot, a natural spot for the speedy but undersized (5-foot-10) junior. But he’ll also be outside, where he’s been working this preseason.
He’s looking good at both spots. That was borne out in Saturday’s scrimmage, when Smart thought Godwin excelled.
“As far as depth of routes, running the routes, catching the ball, making plays, blocking people,” Smart said. “And a lot of that was from outside. It wasn’t just inside. He can play inside. He does great with it. But he’s become more valuable to us outside. And I mean value as far as vertical threat. Just catching the ball.
“He’s very consistent in what he does. He made a couple plays out there today, where you start seeing the guy is really becoming the guy that we expect him to become.”
Those things Smart praised were almost word-for-word what he criticized Godwin for last year. (And Godwin, in his public response, took those in stride.)
Godwin was Georgia’s second-leading receiver as a freshman, behind only Malcolm Mitchell, who was a senior. But last season with Mitchell gone, it was then-junior Isaiah McKenzie, another undersized receiver, who emerged as the team’s leading receiver, with Godwin again second.
But it’s looking like a safe bet now that Godwin will be the leader of the receiving corps this season.
“I think Terry’s done a wonderful job,” offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said recently. “He’s put a few pounds on. He’s gotten stronger. He looks a little faster to me. Terry, once again, is familiar with the offense, and he’s doing a wonderful job out there.
“I think he’s got exceptional hands. I think his mind’s in a great spot. I think his attitude’s fantastic, and I love how he’s working right now.”
Have a question for the DawgNation Mailbag? You can submit them via e-mail at email@example.com. The mailbag runs every Thursday.