ATHENS — Georgia redshirt freshman Kearis Jackson has fought through injuries and is ready to provide a spark for the Bulldogs receiving corps.
Jackson said he has been catching 200 football out of a Jugs machine five nights a week. Before bed, he sticks his hand in a bucket of rice to strengthen it, as he has worked to recover from the broken hand he suffered in the season-opening win over Vanderbilt.
“I feel like I’m catching the ball better, my focus is a whole lot better because I’m focusing on the ball more,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “I feel like my hands have gotten better.”
There’s a good chance quarterback Jake Fromm and the Bulldogs will put that to the test at 6 p.m. on Saturday when they play host to Kentucky at Sanford Stadium (TV: ESPN).
Former Georgia and NFL cornerback Brandon Boykin indicated this week UGA’s receivers need to strike more fear into opponents, most of whom are playing tight man-to-man coverage.
“As a defensive back when we’re game-planning and we’re looking at their receiving corps, when you don’t have a deep threat or someone you fear, it takes pressure off everybody,” Boykin said on Kirby Smart’s radio show on Thursday.
“Right now, I’m not necessarily sure anyone fears our receiving corps.”
Jackson has the speed and play-making ability to change that, but so do others in the receiving room.
“We’re a very talented room, and of course we’re down guys right now, but the room is talented enough for us to come back and guys to step up,” Jackson said. “We’re getting a lot of reps, but we’re still talented enough to go out and perform the way we’re supposed to perform.”
There’s a good chance UGA will be without senior graduate-transfer Lawrence Cager, who has been playing with a separated shoulder and also injured his ribs in last Saturday’s 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina.
Jackson was asked, on the spot, why the receivers have struggled against press coverage.
“We’re working on it,” said Jackson, who started in the opening game. “We just have to use our hands more, be physical at the line, and get open.”
Jackson has also been working on downfield blocking, an area that coach Kirby Smart said he’d like to see the entire receiving corps show improvement.
Jackson said it was just as important for him to be health enough to block as catch the football before returning to the lineup the past two games, albeit, wearing a splint.
“I told the coaches, ‘If I can’t block, I don’t need to be playing, because blocking takes a lot,” Jackson said. “We’ve got the best backs, and I tell them every day, ‘If I”m on the field, I’ve got your back, because running the ball wins games and also opens up the pass game.”
Jackson actually played some running back himself last season when the Bulldogs were banged up at the position.
But a nagging hamstring injury prevented him from making the sort of impact he had hoped for, and he ended up redshirting.
“I just kept trying to rush back and didn’t let it heal all the way,” Jackson said. “I just had a little nagging injury, hamstrings are hard to overcome, but I’m good, I’m healthy now, and I”m ready to play.”
Ready to run, ready to block, ready to catch and ready to make plays, Jackson could be just the right tonic to get the Georgia receiving corps back on track.