ATHENS — During the past two weeks, Florida and South Carolina players have commented on the Georgia football team’s inability to pass.
There was, of course, the comment by Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner last week: “Anyone can throw a slant,” he said, referring to Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm.
Then this week, South Carolina safety Chris Lammons was quoted saying that Georgia “can’t pass.”
Despite those comments, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the play of the game in the Bulldogs’ 24-10 win over South Carolina on Saturday was — you guessed it — a touchdown pass.
The play Smart was referring to was Mecole Hardman’s 20-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that put Georgia up 21-7.
“I thought that touchdown pass was the play of the game because I believe it was third-and-5 or third-and-6. I don’t know what it was, but that was going to be a field goal,” Smart said. “To cash that in from 3 [points] to 7 was a huge momentum swing.”
Smart complimented Hardman’s ability to grow into the receiver role that he has transitioned into this year, saying Hardman has never been a “natural receiver” but has a hard-nosed work ethic and speed on his side.
“He has had to work at it, but he is making plays in space,” Smart said. “And he is fast. That is the one thing about him; you have to respect his speed. We still need him to grow up and develop, but I love his toughness.”
Hardman knows that his transition into the receiver role has been a long road, but he is confident that he is getting the hang of it.
“I’m trying to get my feet under me still, but it’s starting to click a little bit for me,” Hardman said.
But it isn’t just Hardman getting his feet under him in the passing game. All of the receivers are stepping up, along with Fromm.
According to Smart, it is a development that other coaching staffs are beginning to pick up on. And it’s a development in the connection between quarterback and receiver that has made all the difference.
“I have seen Jake’s connection with all of those wideouts grow a little bit,” Smart said. “I think Javon [Wims] is a big target; he is a tough matchup. I know [South Carolina] felt that way. I was talking to their coaches before the game, and they were very complimentary of our wideouts.”
Wims agreed, saying that it’s also about the connection that the receivers have with each other that allows the group to find success on the field, like the near 200-yard receiving night they put together against South Carolina.
“We challenge each other each week,” Wims said. “We work on things together throughout the week. I think as the weeks and the games go by, all of us have improved.”
According to Smart, for Georgia to get where it needs to go, that group needs to keep pushing forward.
“If they continue to improve, it makes us much more balanced,” Smart said.