Kirby Smart: Georgia football could get key receiver back in the rotation

091121 Athens: Georgia wide receiver Kearis jackson makes a long first down gain against UAB during the second quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

ATHENS — The Georgia pass game could take another step forward on Saturday if Kearis Jackson is back in action at receiver.

Coach Kirby Smart indicated on Wednesday that Jackson, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this summer, could be ready to play receiver in the 7 p.m. game on Saturday at Sanford Stadium against South Carolina.

“He’s working hard and he’s been much improved this week,” Smart said. “We think he has a good chance of helping us this week, so we’re certainly hopeful he can.”

RELATED: Key Georgia football receivers fly to California to work with JT Daniels

Jackson, who led UGA in receptions last season, has limited his action to punt returns while ensuring a complete recovery and confidence in the knee that was worked on.

The Bulldogs are also missing receivers George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock, both recovering from ACL surgeries, and tight end Darnell Washington.

“We have a lot of players that have not played a lot of football at that position, and we’re trying to grow those guys to gain confidence,” Smart said. “You guys only see the finished product on Saturday, but we get see them every day and we hope they get better.”

Smart pointed out how receivers lined up in the wrong place and missed blocks in the season-opening 10-3 win over Clemson.

The group looked much better in the 56-7 win over UAB, as offensive coordinator Todd Monken schemed them open by fooling UAB by breaking tendency with formations.

RELATED: UAB coach reveals how Georgia fooled Blazers with formation

Sophomore receivers Jermaine Burton (73-yard TD pass) and Arian Smith (61-yard TD pass) were two of the benefactors. It was needed momentum for the young wideouts, both of whom have been injury-prone and gotten off to slow starts this season.

Georgia relied more heavily on its backs and tight ends in the opening game, targeting them 17 times compared to just 13 targets for the receivers against Clemson.

“They didn’t get a lot of opportunities at Clemson,” Smart said. “They got a few more in the UAB game, and I thought they did that well in terms of being able to throw the ball vertical.

“It’s day to day; it’s like anything, you are only judged by your last performance.”

Smart said his coaches focus on evaluating the players on the field and avoid any sort of preconceived notions.

The receiving corps, much like the team in general, is expected to follow a trajectory of improvement.

“We talk every day that we’re on this trajectory to get to where we want to get, and we have to keep the climb going, and that also includes wide receivers,” Smart said.

“We’ve got to keep the trajectory going of getting better and growing, and that’s No. 1 getting healthy, but No. 2, playing better.”

Georgia football receiving leaders

(by catches, through 2 games)

TE Brock Bowers, 9 catches, 150 yards

WR Jermaine Burton 5 catches, 103 yards

RB James Cook 4 catches, 7 yards

WR Ladd McConkey 3 catches, 44 yards

*6 receivers tied with 2 catches

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