ATHENS – Converted cornerback Mecole Hardman got loose for a couple of long touchdown catches during Georgia’s open practice at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. And Ahkil Crumpton, the late-arriving transfer from Los Angeles Valley Community College, looked positively electric doing his uncanny impersonation of Isaiah McKenzie on pass routes and punt returns. Not surprisingly, the blogosphere was abuzz about the two latest additions to the Bulldogs’ receiving corps.
But that’s the outside world. Within the team, in the huddle and inside the team meetings rooms at the UGA’s Butts-Mehre football complex, all discussion about receivers and the slot position in particular starts and ends with Terry Godwin.
That was reinforced Saturday when offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was asked how Hardman and Crumpton had looked at the slot position so far in preseason camp.
“I’ll start with Terry,” Chaney said, basically ignoring the question about the other two. “I think Terry’s done a wonderful job. He’s put a few pounds on. He’s gotten stronger. He looks a little faster to me. Once again, Terry is familiar with the offense, and he’s doing a wonderful job out there. I think he’s got exceptional hands. I think his mind’s in a great spot. I think his attitude’s fantastic, and I love how he’s working right now.”
Chaney eventually got around to talking about the new players, but his point was established. Godwin is The Man at receiver for the Bulldogs heading into this season.
“It just so happens he has me in there with the ones,” Godwin said modestly. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to to help the team.”
Godwin actually has been very helpful his first two seasons. He has caught 73 passes for 776 yards in that span, by far the most of anybody on the roster. That’s more than twice the rest of the returning receivers combined.
Not only has Godwin lined up in the slot, but he’s played the X and Y receiver positions as well. He has even taken a dozen or so snaps at quarterback. In fact, Godwin is currently the only player on the roster who has caught, passed for and run for touchdowns.
Meanwhile, off the field, Godwin was selected by the coaches to be on the team’s leadership committee. Not necessarily chatty by nature, Godwin nonetheless has made himself into the vocal leader he never has sought to be.
“It’s huge,” quarterback Jacob Eason said of Godwin’s role on the team. “He’s been there. He’s seen things. He’s telling stories. He’s giving guys key pointers. … I’m eager to see where it goes.”
It also exposes the lack of experience Georgia has at the position a present. With Shakenneth Williams seeking a medical hardship, there is only one other senior receiver on the roster, and that’s second-year transfer Javon Wims. Of the three scholarship juniors, Godwin is the only one with extensive playing time. Michael Chigbu and Jayson Stanley have played in 20 and 11 games, respectively, but have only 15 career catches between them.
Conversely, Godwin has participated in every game Georgia has played since he showed up on campus in 2015. And those haven’t been in secondary roles. In addition to being a regular member of the receiver rotation, he has returned punts and kickoffs and played other roles on special teams.
With McKenzie and last year’s 88 touches now gone to the NFL, all eyes naturally turned toward Godwin, a former 5-star prospect from Hogansville.
“I’m just filling in at a spot that the older guys left open,” Godwin said. “But every one of the younger guys that’s come in is trying to take those spots and help the team do what we need to do.”
That’s where Hardman and Crumpton come in. Right now they lack the reputation for dependability that Godwin has earned. But athletically they’re equally explosive, if not more so. As evidenced by last year’s offensive struggles, Georgia needs as much dynamism on the field as it can find. So ultimately it might not be all about the slot.
Here’s Chaney’s explanation:
“God knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “The slot position is catching balls with the big boys. Here comes Mecole and you’ve got a different kind of player. You’ve got an exciting and electric kid that can do a lot of things. He’s still learning the position but I’m really pleased with his addition in that room. It gives us some more vertical strategy and things like that because he can run and he can catch the ball. He has a high football IQ. He gets the game. Wherever we put him, it doesn’t take him a lot of reps to figure it out.
“Now, as we move into Crumpton, I don’t know yet. He’s catching punts and he’s doing a wonderful job. I don’t watch much of that, but from what I hear in the staff room he’s done a good job. I know, what limited [amount] I’ve seen, that he has good hands, good speed. Who knows yet? That remains to be seen. But he can catch and he can run, so that’s a damn good place to start.”
So Godwin is the only known commodity at receiver. However it shakes out, it seems certain that he will play a major role on the offense.
Said Eason: “Terry lights up the room. He’s got a great smile. He’s a funny guy. He’s a great athlete. He has really good hands. He can run a great route. He has a lot of great traits. Terry’s having a good year this year.”