Steffenie Burns/UGA
Riley Ridley was impressive at receiver in the National Championship game against Alabama.

Who will take Javon Wims’ spot in Georgia’s receiving corps?

Cy Brown

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Next man up: Wide receiver

It’s safe to assume Georgia will pass the ball more in 2018 than it did in 2017, if only because if it passed the ball any less it would be Georgia Tech. With a freshman quarterback and two of the best tailbacks in SEC history, it made sense for Georgia to keep the ball onto the ground, pound opponents into submission and pick its spots in the passing game. The Bulldogs ranked near the bottom of the SEC in passing offense last season, but that didn’t hinder them in the least.

The offense will be built differently this season, though. For one, those two All-Everything running backs are gone. There’s plenty of talented players lined up to replace them, but none of them have the experience or proven capabilities of Nick Chubb or Sony Michel. For another, Jake Fromm will be a year older, a year wiser and more capable of captaining the offense. We saw Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney begin to take the reins off at the tail end of last season. I expect they’ll be fully off by the fall.

But a more experienced Fromm can’t revive Georgia’s passing game alone. He’ll need a lot of help from the receiving corps. Heading into the spring, there are two receivers we can label reliable targets: Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman. They were the team’s second and third leading receiver in 2017, respectively. Along with the now NFL-bound Javon Wims, Godwin (639 yards, 6 TDs) and Hardman (418 yards, 4 TDs) were the go-to targets for Fromm last season. Barring anything unforeseen, they’ll pick up right where they left off.

That still leaves the matter of finding a third reliable receiver for Fromm. While Godwin, Hardman or both could match Wims’ production from 2017 (720 yards, 7 TDs) and take his spot as the leading receiver, Fromm still needs a third option. More specifically, he needs a player somewhat in the Wims mold. While Godwin and Hardman use their speed and quickness to beat defenders, Wims used his size and strength, often bullying corners down the sideline before making one of his highlight reel snags.

This is the final entry in my series of spring position battles. (Check the end of this section for links to the rest.) As you’ve figured out, we’re talking about receivers, specifically those who could replace Wims at split end. In order, here are the guys I think have the best chance of becoming the third man in UGA’s receiving corps.

1. Riley Ridley — Ridley is the obvious top choice Wims’ spot because of his stellar performance in the National Championship Game. He finished his sophomore season with 218 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 receptions. Eighty-two of those yards and 6 of those receptions came against Alabama. Ridley isn’t just a one-game wonder, though. He showed a lot of promise as a freshman before dropping off the map until the title game. He’s proven he has the ability. Now he has to prove he has the consistency.

2. Jeremiah Holloman — Holloman just looks like a receiver, man. He’s 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and one helluva athlete. He’s fast, strong, agile, can jump out of the building and has been praised by Smart for his work ethic and physicality. Holloman avoided a redshirt last season, but didn’t contribute much as a receiver, just 1 catch for 7 yards. The limited touches were a product of a lingering hamstring injury and some problems catching the ball. The hamstring issue should be behind him. If the catching issue is as well, he’ll be an outstanding player.

3. Trey Blount — Despite avoiding a redshirt, Blount did not make a single catch as a freshman. That doesn’t mean he didn’t see the field, though. On the contrary, he saw it more than any other freshman receiver thanks to his physicality and blocking skill. Because of that, he’ll have a role on this squad for the next three years. Georgia needs receivers who block well in order to break those trademark toss sweeps. Whether he can contribute as much as pass-catcher as he can as a blocker remains to be seen.

4. Matt Landers — Landers is the man you want if you’re looking for a like-for-like replacement of Wims. At 6-5, he’ll be the tallest receiver on the roster next fall along with incoming freshman Tommy Bush. He redshirted and worked with the scout team as a freshman, often playing the role of the opponents top receiver. Smart even referred to Landers as “a force to be reckoned with” because of his effectiveness in that role. It’s time to see if his skills will transition from the scout team to the first team.

Position battles … Right tackle | Inside linebacker | Guard | Cornerback | Outside linebacker

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Is Zamir White ahead of schedule?

If you didn’t get a chance Thursday, make sure you check out Seth Emerson of DawgNation’s practice notes. There’s plenty of great info in there — including how Justin Fields is throwing and the current composition of the first-string offensive line — including this bit on 5-star freshman running back Zamir White, who is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in December.

From Emerson: “White, wearing a brace around his right knee, is able to run during run and pass route polish drills. In those drills he was doing everything the other tailbacks were doing. But when the tailbacks went into drills when they did more – such as cutting – White sat it out, going to the side on his own. Ron Courson, the head athletic trainer, walked over to White at one point and had him jog in a zig-zag pattern up the sideline. White will also not be doing any contact drills this spring.”

Emerson also noted that White was wearing a No. 3 jersey in practice. So White won’t only run like fellow Tar Heel State-native Todd Gurley, he’ll look like him too.

The best sign yet Tom Crean will keep Jonas Hayes

In all my life, I never thought I’d see Georgia fans so worked up about an assistant basketball coach, yet here we are. And for good reason, in the final months of Mark Fox’s tenure, it started to become clear how important Hayes was to the program, especially its recruiting efforts. That’s been re-enforced by the fact that top-100 recruits and former UGA commits Ashton Hagans and Elias King made no bones about Hayes being a big reason they were comfortable committing to Georgia in the first place.

Because of Hayes’ connection to these top 2019 recruits — and that he played for Georgia — UGA hoops fans have been calling for Tom Crean to retain Hayes in hopes of reassembling a recruiting class that was once ranked the top in the country and would inevitably be the most talented in Georgia basketball history.

Signs are beginning to point toward fans getting their wish. Brandon Sudge of The Telegraph reported Thursday that Hayes accompanied Crean on recent recruiting trips to visit both Hagans and King. King told Sudge that he believes Hayes will remain on Georgia’s staff. Signee JoJo Toppin told Jeff Sentell of DawgNation that Crean said he has taken “a real liking to Jonas.” Toppin also said believes Hayes will remain on staff.

Don’t place your bets on Hayes remaining an assistant at Georgia quite yet, though. Hayes conducting recruiting visits may be nothing. It’s hard for any head coach to recruit effectively without a staff. Hayes is still under contract with Georgia, so if his boss tells him he needs to recruit, he’s gonna recruit.

Like you, Crean wants to bring the best players he possibly can to Athens. And, like you, he probably realizes hanging on to Hayes is the best way to do that in the short-term. This could be a tryout period of sorts for Hayes. At his introductory press conference, Crean noted the two had never met. He could be using this time to get to know Hayes and make sure they’re a good match for one another. If that’s what’s happening, it’s a good move. I don’t think anyone wants their head coach making key personnel decisions sight unseen.

We’ll keep you updated on the Hayes situation as this story develops over the offseason.

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