Kent State
22
Final
39
(1) Georgia
Georgia football-dillon bell-kirby smart-wide receiver
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during a press conference at the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Kirby Smart challenges Dillon Bell to emerge as next productive Georgia football freshman receiver

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Georgia football freshman receiver Dillon Bell challenged by Kirby Smart

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a freshman wide receiver is making an impact for Georgia. George Pickens was the team’s leading receiver in 2019. AD Mitchell scored the go-ahead touchdown in the national championship game. Dominick Blaylock and Jermaine Burton both flashed in their first seasons on campus.

The Bulldogs signed four wide receivers in the previous recruiting cycle. Even with Bryan McClendon replacing Cortez Hankton as wide receivers coach, it seems the Bulldogs have unearthed another gem at the position in Dillon Bell.

Georgia landed Bell out of Houston. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, he is strong but not necessarily imposing. He’s not a burner either. But all he has done since camp began is earn praise from the Georgia coaching staff.

“Dillon (Bell) made some plays today,” Smart said after Saturday’s scrimmage.

But making a handful of plays in a scrimmage and various practices is not enough for Bell. Georgia needs more from him, especially after Arian Smith’s ankle injury. A room that was not all that deep and snakebitten with injuries last year is already being tested before the first game of the season.

Related: Kirby Smart updates injury status of Arian Smith, Kendall Milton and other Bulldogs after first scrimmage

Kearis Jackson, Ladd McConkey and AD Mitchell have been tabbed as the starting wide receivers to this point. Dominick Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint will play important roles for this team as well.

And of course, there is the Georgia tight end room, brimming with Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington, Arik Gilbert and Oscar Delp, another freshman who has caught the eye of Smart in fall camp. But to best set up those tight ends, Georgia is going to need its wide receivers to stretch the field.

Related: Multiple freshman Georgia football pass catchers earning early praise

Bell may not haul in a touchdown in the national championship game to cap his first year in Athens, but Smart expects Bell to be a factor at the wide receiver position this season for Georgia.

Smart is not normally that frank with players, especially freshmen. But the wide receiver position has been a pebble in Smart’s shoe for multiple years now.

“He will work his way into rotation by necessity. We don’t have the depth at the position,” Smart said. “Right now at wide out, we don’t have great depth and we have a couple injuries. Those young guys are getting thrust out there, and they have to go up. We have done it before. We’ve had productive young wide receivers.”

In addition to Bell, Georgia has three other freshmen wide receivers on the roster. But none of them seem particularly close to helping out right now. . CJ Smith was the highest-rated and fastest receiver of the group, but he was slowed this spring as he recovered from a high school knee injury. Morrissette has missed some reps due to a hyper-extended knee, while Cole Speer arrived over the summer.

Bell seems to be the exception as a whole when it comes to the 2022 signing class to this point. Smart has normally cautioned against expecting much from any of them, especially early. Only at wide receiver, running back and cornerback does Smart see a freshman possibly coming in and playing a significant role.

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