ATHENS – For all the attention on Georgia’s quarterbacks, and it’s deserved, there’s almost as much uncertainty on who will be catching the passes.
Malcolm Mitchell is the headliner, yes. But after that it’s a bit of a muddle. In fact at this point Georgia is counting on Isaiah McKenzie, who had all of six catches as a freshman, to be its No. 2 receiver.
Justin Scott-Wesley’s knee injury, which has left the senior debating his future, also complicates things. Assuming he isn’t part of the equation, Georgia’s receivers other than Mitchell combine for just 32 career catches.
The good news is Georgia is deep at tight end and tailback, and in Brian Schottenheimer’s pro-style offense those two spots will see plenty of passes. But receivers are needed to stretch the field, especially since it looks like quarterback is coming down to pocket passers Brice Ramsey and Greyson Lambert.
“The way Schotty’s offense is you’ve gotta be both, so you’ve gotta be able to run and be able to catch underneath catches,” junior receiver Reggie Davis said. “So you’ve really gotta be athletic out there.”
Friday night, receivers coach Bryan McClendon said he had a group of six-to-eight players he would be comfortable using in a rotation. He didn’t outline the group, but acknowledged several who are set to contribute:
– Mitchell, McKenzie and Davis are obviously going to play.
– Sophomore Shakenneth Williams is also “absolutely” in the mix, McClendon said.
– Freshmen Terry Godwin and Michael Chigbu are ready to play too.
“We’ve gotta kind of see what all they can handle, and if this thing is going to be too big for them, especially as of right now at this age. Those two have shown for sure that it’s not,” McClendon said.
Godwin was a five-star recruit and has lived up to his billing in camp so far.
“Some guys are naturally born to play certain positions, and I think Terry was naturally born to play wide receiver,” McClendon said. “Things come natural to him. The game of football comes very easy to him.”
Chigbu, at 6-foot-2, offers the team a physical presence it’s missing with Chris Conley and Michael Bennett gone.
“Mike definitely has some of those same qualities that some of those other guys had,” McClendon said. “But Mike’s going to be good in his own way.”
The other two freshmen, Shaquery Wilson and Jayson Stanley, are being prepared to play, but don’t appear part of the projected rotation yet. As for other candidates, walk-ons Clay Johnson and Kenneth Towns have received plenty of reps in practice.
One of the main keys to the unit is getting a full season from Mitchell, who has yet to do that his previous four seasons at Georgia. And if Mitchell can be the difference-maker he’s been in the past, it would pull defenders away from the unproven receivers, giving them a chance to become proven.
So how close is Mitchell to being that difference-maker? Teammates are talking big.
“I expect great things. Better than the best season he’s ever had,” Towns said. “He’s just so anxious and so prepared this year.”