Wide receiver position continues to improve thanks to ‘rising star’ Cortez Hankton
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Georgia football wide receivers in good hands with wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton
The wide receiver position was a major concern for Georgia in 2019. It was a key reason as to why the offense struggled so much during the course of the year.
But the position wasn’t without its bright spots last season. And for that wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton does deserve some credit.
Hankton played a key role in landing George Pickens as a recruit, and he then went on to lead Georgia in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns as a freshman. He also made strides over the course of the season, peaking in Georgia’s final game of the year. Factor in the flashes fellow freshman Dominick Blaylock showed and there’s reason to be optimistic about the future of the position.
And the best way to improve the talent in Georgia’s wide receiver room is to go out and recruit better players. Hankton played a key role in Georgia signing five wide receivers in the 2020 cycle, including three who ranked in the top-100 in Marcus Rosemy, Arian Smith and Jermaine Burton.
Recruiting at the wide receiver position has improved significantly since Hankton took the job in 2018. The Bulldogs have signed five wide receivers prospects who ranked among the top-100 overall prospects in the country in the last two recruiting cycles. In the previous five recruiting cycles prior to Hankton’s hiring, Georgia signed zero wide receivers who ranked that high, though Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman were listed as athletes.
Between his coaching abilities and his success on the recruiting trail, it’s easy to see why Hankton is seen as a rising star in the coaching ranks. Al.com’s Matt Zentiz polled a number of coaches and high-ranking officials at the college and NFL level about the up-and-coming coaches in the sport.
And Hankton was one of the names that came up.
“A high-ranking NFL staff member was extremely complimentary of Hankton and said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Hankton land an offensive coordinator job in the near future,” Zenitz wrote.
Hankton wasn’t the only Georgia coach to come up, as defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann and tight ends coach Todd Hartley were also identified. But Hankton is perhaps the most interesting of the names of the list.
Lanning and Schumann seem destined to be head coaches and follow in the same footsteps that Mel Tucker did, as he is now the head coach at Michigan State. Hankton, and Hartley as well, still have a few rungs it seems to climb before they become such obvious head coaching candidates.
But there are some things that Hankton brings to the table that might not seem quite so obvious to the common Georgia fan.
For starters, Hankton spent a not-insignificant amount of time in the NFL, as he played five seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He personally knows what it takes to make it to the NFL level, as he’s done it. That’s an effective sales pitch and something that no other Georgia assistant can pitch.
Hankton is also well-connected in the state of Louisana. He’s from New Orleans and played for the same high school program that’s produced the likes of Leonard Fournette and Tyrann Mathieu. Those ties have proven to be beneficial for Georgia on the recruiting trail, as the Bulldogs have landed four players from the state in the last two recruiting cycles, including top-100 overall player Sedrick Van Pran.
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Heading into Hankton’s third season in charge of the wide receiver position, there’s real reason to be optimistic about the group. Between a second-year of Pickens and Blaylock along with the new additions, wide receiver doesn’t figure to be a worry come the end of the season.
There will be growing pains at the bringing of the season when factoring in the loss of spring practices and Georgia having a new quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Hankton’s accustomed to dealing with some of these changes — Todd Monken will be the third different play-caller Hankton has worked with — and Pickens and Blaylock were freshmen just a year ago before combing for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hankton has shown he can get production out of freshmen, and neither Blaylock nor Pickens went through spring practice prior to the 2019 season.
If Hankton is as good as a coach as both outsiders and head coach Kirby Smart seem to think, the wide receivers will be in very good hands for the seasons to come, thanks to the recruiting and development skills of their position coach.
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