ATHENS – As everyone awaits who Georgia will crown its starting quarterback – or rather, in many people’s minds, how long it takes Jacob Eason to get crowned – it’s worth tackling a related question.
Who will that quarterback be throwing to?
Malcolm Mitchell, who caught nearly a third of Georgia’s passes last year (and seemed to be targeted on half of all passes) has taken his steady hands and book-writing prowess to the New England Patriots.
The seemingly natural No. 1 receiver is now Terry Godwin, who was second on the team in catches and receiving yards last year. But is he too small (5-foot-11) to fit that classic No. 1 receiver role in which you feed the top guy over and over? The next leading receivers off last year’s team were Reggie Davis and Isaiah McKenzie, who are also speed-oriented guys, and slight of build.
Spring practice, G-Day and recruiting did a lot to answer that question.
Michael Chigbu and Jayson Stanley both had strong spring games, while freshman Riley Ridley (who enrolled early) and Javon Wims were both signed. The first three are all listed at 6-foot-2, and Wims is 6-5.
So there are options for Eason, or Greyson Lambert, or Brice Ramsey. And there is also the very deep tight end room. Georgia’s coaches must feel good enough about the receiver situation, even after Demetris Robertson skated off to California, that they shifted Shaquery Wilson to tailback, and put freshman Charlie Woerner with the tight ends.
So where do all these moving parts fit? And what will it look like when Georgia begins preseason practice? Glad you asked.
FLANKER (WIDE RECEIVER)
- Starter: Terry Godwin, Soph.
- Backups: Reggie Davis, Sr.; Shakenneth Williams, Jr.
- Others: Charlie Hegedus, Sr. (walk-on); Matt Price, Soph. (walk-on).
- On the way: Tyler Simmons, Fr.
- The skinny: If Godwin isn’t Georgia’s leading receiver by the end of the season, it’ll be a surprise. He may not be big, but as he showed last year he has good hands, speed and route-running ability. Georgia’s pass offense is going to be much different, so it’s not like Godwin will just slide into Mitchell’s role and routes. You may see more vertical shots for Godwin, whose longest catch last year was 35 yards, and who averaged only 10.8 yards per catch. (Mitchell averaged 14.9.) Then there’s Davis, who’s rather unappreciated for his breakaway and downfield ability, but will need to show he can make the tougher catches over the middle if he’s going to become an every-series threat. Williams, who is listed at 6-foot-1 but looks bigger because he’s built well, hasn’t been on the field enough yet. Simmons, whose calling card is speed, could get a long look come August as well. Shaquery Wilson could also end up a factor if the move to tailback doesn’t stick.
SPLIT END (WIDE RECEIVER)
- Starter: Jayson Stanley, Soph. or Michael Chigbu, Soph.
- Backups: Kenneth Towns, Sr.; Riley Ridley, Fr.
- Others: Wyatt Payne, R-Fr. (walk-on); Steven Van Tiflin, Soph. (walk-on).
- On the way: Javon Wims, Jr.
- The skinny: Stanley’s emerged this spring after a quiet freshman season (he caught just two passes). He surpassed Chigbu, who last year got the second-most reps of any freshman receiver, after Godwin. But Chigbu didn’t seem to hurt himself either, and should have had a long touchdown pass from Lambert on G-Day, but the officials ruled it out of bounds. There should be enough passes to go around, so don’t be surprised if either Stanley or Chigbu ends up the team’s second-leading receiver this year. Towns missed spring practice after his pre-bowl leg injury, but he offers size and the one thing missing from the room: experience. He may only have 11 catches over three seasons, but he has a lot of reps to lean on. As for Ridley, he had a quiet spring, which is no surprise considering he could’ve still been in high school, but he could well be a factor come preseason. Wims, being a junior college transfer, likely won’t get eased in, and he right away becomes the team’s tallest receiver.
- Starter: Isaiah McKenzie, Jr.
- Backups: Davis.
- On the way: Mecole Hardman, Fr.; Simmons.
- The skinny: Last year’s offensive staff couldn’t quite figure out how to get the ball enough to McKenzie. Just get him the ball and see what happens would seem a good strategy, yet it didn’t happen much. Oh well. Hardman, who will begin at cornerback, will likely see action on offense, it’s just a matter of whether it happens right away or not.
- Starter: Jeb Blazevich, Jr.
- Backups: Jackson Harris, Soph.
- Others: Jordan Davis, Jr.; Isaac Nauta, Fr.
- On the way: Charlie Woerner, Fr.
- The skinny: If the best laid plans at receiver don’t work out, there’s always the tight end to fall back on. That should’ve been the case last year, but … well, a lot of things went wrong on last year’s offense. Kirby Smart has talked often about how he loved the way Jim Chaney used the tight end at his previous stops – go up to Smart on the street, he’ll probably be talking about it. Chaney has the tight ends to utilize at Georgia, beginning with Blazevich, a two-year starter, a sophomore (Harris) who looked good in sporadic action last year, and oh, by the way, a five-star prospect in Nauta. Does that leave snaps for Davis and Woerner? We’ll see.