ATHENS – Terry Godwin grew his facial hair out a bit more this spring. A slight beard now approaches his goatee, which is a bit more pronounced. It’s a subtle sign he’s gearing up for the bigger role that awaits him this season: Georgia’s No. 1 receiver.
Only Godwin isn’t embracing it quite yet. He began to laugh on Thursday as the question was asked: Is too much being expected of him?
Yes, he’s Georgia’s leading returning receiver. But can he realistically be asked to step into the role vacated by Malcolm Mitchell – a fifth-year senior last year – when Godwin will only be a sophomore?
“I mean, I can’t say what y’all are expecting,” Godwin said. “If y’all are expecting a high standard, that’s up to y’all. I’m just going to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do, and try to make plays for the team.”
That’s low-balling it. If he’s not atop Georgia’s receiving chart at the end of this season, it will either be because of injury, or something very strange happened.
Godwin had 35 catches last year, second on the team to Mitchell’s 58. He was also second in receiving yards (379, to Mitchell’s 865). The drop-off from there was steep: The next wide receiver in each category was Reggie Davis (12 catches for 187 yards.)
Isaiah McKenzie may have the most breakaway ability of any receiver, but he didn’t have any receiving touchdowns last year, and was held (as much by the defense as the playcalling ineptitude) to 10 catches for 123 yards.
Godwin may not have the ideal size for a typical No. 1 receiver, who the team goes to for those difficult third-down conversions over the middle, for instance. But neither do Davis or MeKenzie. So unless Jayson Stanley, Michael Chigbu or another bigger receiver makes a huge leap this year, Godwin will have his number called in a number of different situations.
“I don’t look at it as a role,” Godwin said. “I look at it as just part of the offense, just trying to help the team, contribute, and do what I can.”
It helps that the transition to a new staff hasn’t been arduous. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s new system isn’t complicated “once you get used to it,” according to Godwin. And he and head coach Kirby Smart were already familiar with each other through the recruiting process.
“I’ve watched him practice when he was a ninth-grader,” Smart said. “He’s doing it through example right now too. He’s not comfortable being vocal about it, but he’s making plays out there. And that’s the big thing the receivers need out there.”
So while Godwin may be downplaying his bigger role, Smart made clear the offense needs what Godwin can provide: Big-play ability on a consistent basis.
“That’s the big thing that receivers need, they need to make plays vertically. We’ve gotta be able to stretch the field,” Smart said. “And coach Chaney’s system, it’s gonna be thump-thump—thump-bang. Thump-thump-thump-bang. And when we bang we’ve gotta go deep, make some completions and get a vertical passing game. And Terry gives us that. He plays with kind of a swagger and a toughness that you want.”
Godwin does need to improve his blocking and ball security, Smart added. Both will be keys if Godwin is to truly be a No. 1 receiver; Mitchell became the team’s best blocker last year, and wasn’t a fumble risk. He was also slightly bigger than Godwin.
Those will be the main questions going forward for Godwin. But his ability to make plays – run a clean route, get open, make the catch and get yardage – is something the Bulldogs need to count on.
“If coach calls my number, I’m going to go out there and try to make the play,” Godwin said.
Not much is assured this year about Georgia’s offense. But Godwin’s number being called a lot seems as close to a sure bet as you can get.
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