ATHENS – Georgia wide receiver Tyler Simmons is best known as an offensive assassin when it comes to his downfield blocking ability. But he’ll also tell anybody who asks that he’s as fast as just about anybody on his team. And the Bulldogs have some burners.
Simmons put that speed on full display in the first half of Saturday’s game against UMass. The junior from Powder Springs went 49 yards for a touchdown on a jet sweep right on Georgia’s third play of the game. In the second quarter, Simmons’ jets got him free again. This time it came on a fly pattern down the left sideline on which Jake Fromm hit him in stride with what ended as a 71-yard touchdown pass.
Simmons’ second score gave the Bulldogs a 28-7 lead with still 10:27 remaining in the second quarter of what was a record-setting offensive night. Georgia had 42 points and 431 yards by halftime. The Bulldogs had scored 66 points by early in the fourth quarter, their most since putting 70 on Louisiana-Monroe in 1994.
But Simmons was long gone from the game by then, as were all of Georgia’s offensive starters. Simmons night ended early in the third quarter with a total of three touches. But they totaled 130 yards – 43 yards a touch – and 2 touchdowns.
While the big offensive night might have come as a surprise to Georgia fans and some of the Bulldogs’ opponents, it wasn’t for coach Kirby Smart and members of the team. While Simmons earned his way onto the field as a blocker and special teams standout – he’s on every kick-coverage unit and, as some might recall, punt-block as well – Simmons has long been known within the locker room as a reliable receiver with speed to burn.
That reputation elevated Simmons this season into the Bulldogs’ primary receiver rotation. He has started five games and played in all 11 this season. He now has 7 catches for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season and is averaging a hardy 32.2 yards now on four of those jet sweeps.
That production says a lot in Georgia’s talent-rich receiver meeting room, which features 14 scholarship players. This past week, Simmons described that room as “extremely competitive, as you might think.” And that goes beyond catches and touchdowns.
Georgia records the top speeds its skill players record in every practice and in games via GPS devices implanted in their shoulder pads. Simmons claimed that his top speed this season is “right up there” with the best ones recorded by the Bulldogs’ other speedsters. Those include receivers Mecole Hardman, Jayson Stanley and Demetris Robertson and defensive backs Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes.
Simmons has normally put his speed to use covering kicks and executing game-breaking downfield blocks. But as he demonstrated, Simmons can do a little something with the ball in his hands as well.