ATHENS — Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill was among the first this season to take note that Georgia had a rising star in the midst of its deep receiver rotation.
“Number nine, he comes in there, he’s 6-foot-4 and doesn’t even hardly play until he end of the game,” Stockstill said after the Bulldogs beat his Blue Raiders 49-7.
Holloman has elevated his profile in the past month, now starting for No. 6-ranked Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) as it prepares for No. 11-ranked Kentucky (7-1, 5-1 SEC) in a game that will decide the SEC East Division winner.
Holloman, who’s listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, made the most of his first career start against Florida in Jacksonville last Saturday with two touchdown catches among his career-high four caches for 48 yards.
“I’ve become a student of the game, taking notes in meetings and things like that,” said Holloman, whose athleticism has been on display for years, as he won the Georgia state triple jump his sophomore and junior years at Newton County High School before enrolling early at UGA.
“I tell myself for me to separate myself from others there are certain things I have to be willing to do.”
Holloman had three catches for a career-high 90 yards that September day against Middle Tennessee, and he followed that up with a 61-yard touchdown catch the following week at Missouri.
Smart explained the timing was just a matter of opportunity.
“I think everybody just thinks that if you have a good game here, then you’re definitely going to have a good game here,” Smart said. “A lot of things are dictated by when we call the play, what is the coverage, what is the defense doing, what hash is it on, things that people don’t think about.
“That determines who gets the ball, and it’s not like you can just go out there and say, we’re throwing J.J. the ball, he’s hot.”
The Florida game will be remembered as his breakout performance, because the season was on the line for Smart’s Bulldogs.
That will be the case again this week, too, and Holloman isn’t backing away from the challenge.
“The opportunity was there (in Jacksonville) and I was able to take advantage of it,” Holloman said. “We have to understand this week everything is at risk. We’ll prepare the same way this week as we do every week, but there will be extra fire up under us, because we know if we lose this game, we weren’t playing in Atlanta.”
The SEC East Division winner will meet the SEC West Division champ on Dec. 1 in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
Holloman said he talks with former Georgia go-to receiver and current Chicago Bears wideout Javon Wims every day.
“I learned a lot from Javon Wims, and we still talk everyday, he taught me a lot,” Holloman said. “Javon told me to take advantage of every opportunity I get.
“Being around him I saw him do everything extra. To be a great player, I have to make those sacrifices.”
Coach Kirby Smart said he has taken note of Holloman’s work ethic.
“What J.J. has done is just grind it, and J.J. is the epitome of if you work hard, good things will happen to you,” Smart said. “So he blocks consistently, because he controls his blocking. He doesn’t control where the ball is thrown, but he controls his blocking. He controls how he practices, because you control that.
“So the things that you can control you try to control, and J.J. does a great job of that.”
Georgia WR Jeremiah Holloman