Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.
Don’t be surprised by a slow to 2020 season by much-hyped freshman wide receivers
When Kirby Smart landed the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 highest-rated wide receiver signees in his time at Georgia in the 2020 recruiting cycle, there was legitimate excitement about the talent the Bulldogs were bringing in at the wide receiver position. Add in a 5-star tight end in Darnell Washington as well as fellow signees Justin Robinson and Ladd McConkey, and Georgia got an influx of talent at the position when it clearly needed it.
The 2019 season very obviously showed the shortcomings Georgia had at the position, even with bright spots in then-freshmen George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock. Those two led the team in touchdowns catches and yards per catch last season, proving to be the biggest difference makers, along with graduate transfer Lawrence Cager, at the position.
So because those freshmen had success, there’s a case to be made that some of Georgia’s young pass catchers on the 2020 team to have the same type of impact, right? And with a delayed start to the season, they’ll have more opportunities to get familiar with Todd Monken’s new offense, correct?
But after hearing Smart speak about the wide receivers and how they looked during the first scrimmage, it’s worth keeping in mind that all these players were playing high school football last season.
“We hit a wall a little bit with some of the younger guys,” Smart said. “I think they didn’t show us much today. We didn’t have a lot of great vertical passing game.”
Related: What comes next at the wide receiver position now that Dominick Blaylock is out for 2020
Young players hitting a wall during their first fall practices is about as common as a freshman getting on the wrong bus on their way to class. It happens and will continue to be that way so long as freshmen exist.
It hasn’t been all bad for Georgia’s newcomers though. Robinson has had some bright spots and looks like a player who is on his way to out-playing his recruiting ranking. With Blaylock now out for the season due to a second ACL injury, Jermaine Burton — the No. 82 ranked overall player in the country and third highest-rated receiver Georgia signed this cycle — figures to have a better chance at earning early playing time. Like Robinson, he’s popped up in a few of the highlight videos Georgia football has put out.
Related: Freshman WR Justin Robinson continues to make plays at UGA practice
Marcus Rosemy, Georgia’s highest-rated wide receiver in this 2020 class, has also shown some promise early, with Terrence Edwards providing some details on why he’s stood out.
“From what I’ve been hearing, he doesn’t drop anything,” Edwards said. “I’m not calling him a possession receiver but when you need that first down, you’re gonna go to a guy that’s so comfortable that he’s gonna make the play regardless. Whether it’s a contested-catch or he’s open.”
But let’s not pencil them for strong freshman seasons as we saw a season ago from Pickens and Blaylock. And while we’ve praised the performances of Pickens and Blaylock from 2019, it wasn’t like they were fully formed to start the season.
In games against Power 5 opponents, the two were actually relatively ineffective in the early portion of the 2019 season. Pickens had just three catches for 23 yards in Georgia’s first three games against Power 5 foes in 2019, with the opponents being Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Tennessee. Blaylock had only two catches for 19 yards in that same three-game span.
With Georgia playing an only SEC schedule in 2020, the Bulldogs won’t get any cupcakes to feast on. Robinson, Burton and Rosemy’s first games will come against Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee. That fourth game will be on the road against Alabama as well.
That will put an even bigger burden on the likes of Pickens, Demetris Robertson and Kearis Jackson, who seem to have separated themselves as Georgia’s top wide receivers so far.
The freshman group also hasn’t been totally healthy either. Washington had surgery upon his arrival at Georgia to clean up a knee injury he had from his high school days. Arian Smith, the No. 58 overall player in the 2020 signing class, had two surgeries this summer, including one on his knee after an injury to his meniscus. Smith is the best athlete of Georgia’s signees but to this point, he hasn’t been able to fully put it on display.
And despite Washington’s 5-star ranking, Smart has spent more time discussing his nickname rather than his on-field performance.
“It brings a smile to my face because those offensive guys call him ‘The Big O,’ and he is big, he is very big,” Smart said. “When they said ‘The Big O’ I didn’t get it until I realized he’s ‘The Big O’ for wearing zero.”
In time Georgia might get a lot from these freshman pass catchers. Georgia likely won’t have the same lack of talent problem it did in 2019 with the 2020 signing class now providing more help.
But with Blaylock now out for the 2020 season, it’ll be even more imperative for Georgia to get some production from the group.