ATHENS — There are two different Terry Godwins at Georgia. There’s the one that showed up from Callaway High School three years ago and there’s the one who’s a college junior now and has been a mainstay of the Bulldogs’ offense for three years running now.
Godwin was discussing the two Terrys as No. 2 Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) began preparations for Saturday’s game against South Carolina (6-2, 4-2).
It began as a sort of frivolous hypothetical exercise, but Godwin was making a point.
“That guy, I don’t know what he would’ve said,” said Godwin, a 5-star-rated wide receiver known as Lil’ T when he signed with the Bulldogs out of the LaGrange area. “I know he wouldn’t have agreed with it. As a high school kid, you want to be the guy to get all the passes, have all the fame or whatever. That’s just a high school mentality. As you come to the collegiate level and grow, all that changes. You get to know the nitty-gritty. You know what you need to do and how you fit in.”
All that’s a fancy way of Godwin saying he’s okay with blocking a lot and catching only a little. That’s has the responsibility distribution for Georgia’s wide receivers. These guys get their rewards as often for springing the Bulldogs’ running backs on long runs as much as they do for snagging touchdown passes.
Though they do still like to score themselves from time-to-time. And they still are.
“In high school, all you see is passes,” said Godwin, who is second on the team with 16 catches and fourth in TDs with five. “You want to go out there and catch all the passes and get all the glory as a receiver. So naturally you want to catch the ball and go score touchdowns. Once you get here, though, you get into the team bonding, get into what the coaches want and buy into what this program is bringing to you.”
What it’s bringing the Bulldogs at the moment is an undefeated record, No. 2 national ranking and a lot notoriety as run-first, physically-tough football team. They enter Saturday’s game against South Carolina second in the SEC in rushing (284 ypg) behind only Alabama (298.75).
The converse of that, however, is Georgia isn’t passing the ball very much. The Bulldogs are throwing for fewer yards than any team in the league (162.3 ypg).
That run-pass distribution was dramatically reflected in this past Saturday’s 42-7 win over Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs ran the ball on 35 of their 42 offensive plays, averaging 8.3 yards an attempt. Of their 393 total yards, 292 came on the ground.
“They’ve matured because it’s not about them, it’s about the team,” coach Kirby Smart said of Godwin and the UGA wide receivers. “There’s been no selfishness in that room. … After the (Florida) game, the first thing I did was commend the receivers because it’s not always in their DNA to be comfortable in that role.”
Georgia’s keeping the ball on the ground because it can. That’s one of the unique luxuries of having two NFL-caliber senior tailbacks in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who have more than 7,200 career yards between them. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have won their five SEC games by an average of 32 points and have found themselves comfortably ahead by the end of third quarter.
The Florida game was another one of that ilk. Georgia was up 21-0 eight minutes into it. Javon Wims was the only receiver to catch a pass and his was a 17-yard leap-and-snatch in that opening quarter. Running back D’Andre Swift had the other three catches.
“I got an opportunity and I did the best I could to high-point it and come down with it,” said the 6-foot-5 Wims, who leads the Bulldogs with 19 receptions. “I didn’t want to miss my chance.”
That’s another one of Smart’s points with the receiver corps. The counter to not getting opportunities in bunches is that the ones they get should reap big rewards.
“When they get their opportunities they’re going to make the most of them, and some of them have done that” Smart said. “They know the time and place is coming for them to make plays. They understand that during the week they get to work on that part of their game. It just so happens that for 45 plays in the game, I guess 38 or 37 of them, they didn’t get to work on that part of their game, but they will (in practice). They get to go against some pretty good players and we continue to try to develop that part of our game.”
The receivers insist that having a true freshman at quarterback is not holding them back. Jake Fromm is averaging only 157.9 yards passing a game, but he’s completing 61.7 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. And Georgia’s yards per attempt (9.29) is second only to Missourio (9.37).
“He’s capable of what he’s shown and then some,” Wims said. “He’s a great football player, a student of the game and I think he’s going to be great for this program for years to come.”
Said Godwin: “We have a lot of confidence in Jake. We know he’s going to go out there and make the right checks, make the right reads and put us in position to make the right play.”
In the meantime, the Bulldogs’ wideouts are left but no choice but to embrace their role. That is to block, mostly.
“As far as that receiver room, we love blocking,” Godwin insisted. “This year I finally bought into what Coach Smart coaching us on since he’s been here. He’s been trying to instill in us as receivers to go out there and show physicality. It puts a lot of fear in a DBs, being physical. They never whether you’re coming for them or going to go out for a pass, because you’ve been physical with them the whole game. That kind mentality wears down on a defense. For us as a team, that’s very important.”