Georgia football coach Kirby Smart provides spring preview on young receiver group
ATHENS — Kirby Smart knows his receivers can run, jump and catch the football.
But as departing receiver Mecole Hardman said at the NFL combine last weekend, “Where I come from, if you don’t block you don’t play.”
Countless times last season, Smart pointed out the receivers and tight ends who made key downfield blocks on explosive plays.The fourth-year Georgia head coach will not have it any other way.
Smart will be assessing his young receiver corps and their ability to block this spring.
“We had some pretty physical players, now, Riley Ridley, Terry (Godwin) and Mecole (Hardman), they’ll strike you, and what they don’t have in size they had in heart, and they would block you,” Smart said during an interview on Atlanta’s 680 The Fan radio station last week.
“The group we have now, it’s more about execution, it’s about want-to and desire,” Smart said, “because blocking is about 75 percent how bad you want to do it, and we’ve got some guys with decent size, but they may not be overpowering.”
Georgia must replace approximately 75 percent of the catch production and 71 percent of the yardage from last year’s receiver room.
Three of the top four receiver targets have moved on.
“I’m watching that combine the other day, you see all those guys all in one group, it’s rare to have three players at the same combine at one position with Riley, Mecole and Terry,” Smart said. “And you throw in the fact Jayson Stanley is a really talented guy, and there’s other guys that are leaving our program.”
Smart is confident in senior Tyler Simmons and junior J.J. Holloman. Both are returning regulars from last season’s rotation.
Holloman is the leading returning receiver with 24 catches for 418 yards in 2018. Simmons is next on the list for wideouts with 9 catches for 138 yards.
There are more questions than answers after that.
“I know I’m excited to see what Matt (Landers) and Tommy (Bush) do,” Smart said referencing the 6-5, 200 Landers and 6-5, 195 Bush.
“Bigger is not always more physical,” Smart said, but, “J.J. is a very physical blocker, and so is Tyler, they proved that last year.”
Former 5-star prospect and Cal Freshman All-American Demetris Robertson proved not to be ready to play in 2018 after a much-hyped transfer. Robertson failed to catch a pass last season.
Smart included Robertson and Kearis Jackson in the group he said he has been impressed with in the offseason.
“I’ve really been pleased with the offseason work of guys like Matthew Sanders, Tyler Simmons, J.J. Holloman, D-Rob, there’s a lot of guys that can play,” Smart said.
“Kearis Jackson is a kid that had a good camp for us and continues to work, Tommy Bush, so it’s going to be a group by committee.”