Jermaine Burton‘s performance against Alabama was his most productive game to date. The freshman wide receiver had a career-high four catches. He caught his first career touchdown. He got behind the defense as well to haul in a 36-yard pass, giving the Georgia offense an explosive play.
But it was also probably a performance Burton would like to forget. At the very least, one he can and wants to improve on.
Alabama wanted to take away Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson, and mostly did as he had just two receptions on seven targets. That meant the freshman Burton was going to get more favorable coverages and opportunities.
“They were bracketing the inside guys most of the game,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said. “The reads just took me to Jermaine and I have trust in him. We’re gonna get that connection dialed in on the off week.”
Burton had an early drop in the game that would’ve been a touchdown had he hauled it in. The pass from Bennett was behind him and it was admittedly would’ve been a tough grab. But Burton would probably tell you he should’ve caught the pass. Fortunately, Georgia ended up scoring a touchdown later on the drive, so that play wasn’t as costly.
The freshman wide receiver made up for that drop with a touchdown catch on Georgia’s final play of the second quarter. Burton was able to get free from Alabama cornerback Josh Jobe in the back of the endzone and haul in a pass from Bennett.
But on the same drive, Burton was also involved in the most consequential play of the game. On third and 10 at the Alabama 25-yard line, Bennett was once again looking for Burton. The freshman had gotten enough separation to get his hands free on the play and Bennett got him the ball.
But Jobe was all over Burton and the wide receiver had the ball ricochet off his hands. The ball fell into the waiting arms of Alabama safety Malachi Moore, who returned the ball 42 yards. Alabama scored on the ensuing drive to make it a 34-24 game. While the game wasn’t over yet, in hindsight that interception proved to be the turning point for Georgia.
“He had a ball I don’t know for sure but I thought Jermaine could have caught. It went through Jermaine’s hands a little high and then they picked,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of the play.
Burton, much like Georgia, had some moments on Saturday night where he showed that he belonged on Georgia’s biggest stage. It was his fourth career game, much like it was Georgia’s fourth game running Todd Monken’s offense. He and Georgia have time to get better.
And the Alabama game showed that they need to. One only has to look at what Waddle and Devonta Smith did to see the kind of impact a game-breaking wide receiver can have. If Burton continues to improve, he’ll make things easier for Georgia’s quarterback and the offense as a whole.
He finished the game against the No. 2 team in the country with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. That’s not bad for someone who was playing high school football this time last year.
But the Georgia offense still needs him — along with the rest of the unit — to improve.
Georgia can still accomplish all of its goals this season. To do that now, it will likely see Alabama again. And for as much has been made about the Georgia defensive effort on Saturday, it was the offense yhsy failed to keep up with Alabama in the second half.
Burton will only continue to get better, as he has over the first four games of his college career. And if he continues to do that, he’ll go a long way in fixing this some of the second half issues on Georgia’s offense.
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