ATHENS — Georgia has plenty of options at wide receiver. Whether it has the means or will to get the ball to them has yet to be determined.
Heading into spring practice, the Bulldogs have 11 receivers on the roster, including two walkons. That number will rise to 14 once the freshmen join them this summer, and 15 if a certain 5-star prospect decides to join them sometime between now and then.
That’s plenty of bodies considering Georgia rarely has more than three wideouts on the field on any given down, and it often goes with just two (along with a fullback and tight end).
“We’ve got some big guys,” first-year coach Kirby Smart said recently. “I would like to have some more speed there — fast, vertical-threat guys. We’ve got pretty good size there. We’ve got pretty good experience there. We’ve got to do a good job of getting the ball to them and finding ways to use those guys.”
Some of that will be determined by whether Georgia has a quarterback it trusts to deliver the ball downfield. Some of that will be determined by whether the Bulldogs have players that can get open and make plays in the clutch, and some of it will be determined by the whims of their new offensive coordinator.
Jim Chaney has proven he can matriculate the ball down the field in any number of ways. At Purdue with Drew Brees, they spread the field and threw the ball all over the place. At Tennessee, he had backs rush for over 1,300 yards twice but also had a quarterback throw for 3,600 yards and 34 touchdowns one season. At Pittsburgh last year, he a quarterback throw for 2,287 yards and 20 TDs, and a back rush for 1,121 yards and 11 scores.
All of which brings us back to Georgia’s receiving corps. With Malcolm Mitchell and his sure hands now off to the NFL, others will have to earn Chaney’s trust. If he believes they’ve got the ability make plays down the field, he knows plays to call to get it to them. There are numerous candidates, but none with the long record of productive service that Mitchell carried.
Let’s take a look. …
- Returning starters: Reggie Davis, Sr.; Terry Godwin, So.
- Others returning: Kenneth Towns, Sr.; Isaiah McKenzie, Jr.; Shakenneth Williams, Jr.; Michael Chigbu, So., Jayson Stanley, So., Shaquery Wilson, So.; Matt Price, RSo.; Wyatt Payne, RFr.
- Early enrollees: Riley Ridley, Fr.
- On the way: Javon Wims, Jr.; Tyler Simmons, Fr.; Charlie Woerner, Fr.
- Analysis: Georgia believes it has a bona fide star-in-the-making in Terry Godwin, who certainly made the most of the opportunities he got as a freshman and will get more as a sophomore. Godwin played in all 13 games and started nine of them, catching 35 balls for 379 yards. Both marks were second-most on the team behind Mitchell. But Godwin was utilized in a very specialized way, often operating from a flanker position or even as the wildcat in a shotgun formation. Mitchell caught 58 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns lining up almost exclusively at split end and usually drawing opponents’ best cover man. Can the 5-foot-11, 174-pound Godwin be that guy? Or will that role have to fall into the hands of a big group of highly-regarded sophomores, including Michael Chigbu (6-2, 216), Jayson Stanley (6-2, 204) and Shaquery Wilson (6-1, 190). Or will junior Shakenneth Williams finally come of age? Georgia also is bringing in four newcomers and is still vigorously pursuing a fifth in No. 1-rated wideout Demetris Robertson of Savannah, who might not sign until May. Receiver is one position in which first-year players can make an immediate impact. See Alabama’s Calvin Ridley this past season. His little brother Riley is already on UGA’s campus as an early enrollee.
- Bottom line: The thought is Georgia will not need to throw the ball all over the yard to be productive in 2016, even though the prospect of fully utilizing Jacob Eason’s gifts will certainly be enticing. If the Bulldogs get what they hope out of tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, it won’t need to be flooding the secondary with multiple targets. It will need only a couple of crafty and dependable wideouts who know how to get open on third-and-long or can get behind a defense bent on stuffing the run. Godwin, Davis and McKenzie can fill that bill from the start, and others need only demonstrate they can do it better.
Here are the previous stories in our series:
- Part I: Georgia has cornerbacks covered
- Part II: Bulldogs have safety in numbers
- Part III: A new era for Georgia’s OLBs
- Part IV: Strong LB play rests on Carter’s shoulders
- Part V: Georgia still seeking that great nose
- Part VI: Dogs look for growth at D-end
- Part VII: Georgia’s muddled kicking situation
- Part VIII: Punting duties anybody’s guess for now
- Part IX: UGA’s special-teams strength returns
- Part X: Success of UGA’s offense centers on line
- Part XI: A return to the old guard on the O-line
- Part XII: Competition intense, options many at tackle
- Part XIII: UGA’s deep TE legacy continues