Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.(Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie Miles

How Georgia football can overcome short-term injuries at wide receiver

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Georgia football wide receivers continue to battle injuries at wide receiver

Since Cortez Hankton was hired, the Georgia Bulldogs have signed five wide receivers ranked among the top 100 overall prospects in their respective recruiting class.

All five of them are still on the team. Currently though, just one of them is fully healthy. That would be redshirt freshman Arian Smith. He missed a majority of his freshman season with a knee injury and had a wrist injury in the spring as well.

The injuries in the wide receiver best illustrate the concerns within the room. Not only has the depth taken a hit with five wide receivers hitting the transfer portal this offseason, but now nearly all of the ones who stayed have some ailment.

George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock are still recovering ACL injuries. When they see the field in 2021, if at all, is a wild guess at this point. On the more positive side, Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint are dealing with ankle injuries. The latter missed the final four games of the 2021 season after fracturing his ankle against Florida but does seem to be making some progress and could possibly play in the opener against Clemson.

Related: Georgia football injury and availability update: Receiver ranks thinned out

Burton was a surprise hold-out from this past Saturday’s scrimmage. Not helping matters was that Georgia was also without Kearis Jackson, who was the No. 130 prospect in the 2018 class, who is still working his way back from offseason knee surgery.

The Bulldogs are down bad at wide receiver at the moment. Considering that position has been a major strength regarding the recent national champions, it is understandably worrying as the Bulldogs ready for the 2021 season.

The status of Burton and Jackson in particular will have to be monitored in the lead up to the Clemson game.

“I would have said this year if we were perfectly healthy that we would have been ahead offensively than we were defensively, but some of the injuries have forced some guys up,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said on Saturday.

At the receiver position, that means a guy like Adonai Mitchell. He impressed in Georgia’s spring game and clearly looks better than the 3-star ranking he had as a prospect would indicate.

It’s still worth keeping in mind that the game against Clemson will be his first college football game. Even if it were a lesser opponent, there’s still a learning curve that comes with that adjustment.

Burton had to deal with the same thing a season ago. And it wasn’t until his fourth game as a freshman that he had more than three catches in a game.

Related: Georgia football fall practice live updates, injury notes and position battles

“I thought that Coach Monken made a good decision to throw Jermaine out there and make him go play early,” Smart said. “It was tough. We went through some growing pains. He missed some things, didn’t get some signals, got called offsides, but it paid off in the end because he got a lot more confidence.”

Now Burton is expected to be one of the leaders at the position. But a year ago Georgia had a Pickens it could rely on, along with a fully healthy Jackson as well.

Other young names to know include redshirt freshmen Justin Robinson and Ladd McConkey. They’ve both had some moments in fall and spring practices.

But the best form of help to Georgia’s injured wide receiver room is most likely greater involvement from the running backs and the tight ends.

Even with a healthy wide receiver room, tight end and running back represent greater strengths for this Georgia offense. When someone like Kenny McIntosh is potentially your fourth-string running back, you’re in a really good place at the position.

“Offensively, I thought Kenny (McIntosh) hit a couple wheel routes,” Smart said. “Kenny did a nice job out of the backfield, made people miss.”

Related: Georgia stock report: Kenny McIntosh makes plays, back in RB mix

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