ATHENS – Early enrollees are always the greatest curiosity at spring practices, and at UGA there were six, and for all the focus on a certain quarterback, a junior college offensive linemen, and three talented defensive player, when it came to immediate impact the buzz was on one guy: J.J. Holloman.
Georgia needs good wide receivers. No secret. In particular, it needs big, athletic receivers. Why hello there, J.J. Holloman, formerly known as Jeremiah Holloman.
“He reminds me of myself coming in,” said Javon Wims, now a rising senior and last year a junior college transfer. “Same similar build. I told him he’s going to thicken out, of course, he’s just a freshman. Our game is pretty much the same. We both are big guys. We both can be very physical out there in the passing game.”
Wims, who is listed at 6-foot-4, actually said that Holloman (listed at 6-2) is the same size as him, which reflects why Holloman could be in line for immediate playing time: He plays big, meaning his ability to get off jams at the line and get in the open, where he’s a bigger target for Jacob Eason.
But that’s the key point, head coach Kirby Smart indicated.
“J.J.’s had an up-and-down spring,” Smart said during spring practice. “He’s been consistent in his effort and his toughness. But he’s had some battles with catching it.”
But on G-Day there were no such problems: Holloman hauled in three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
“What a great kid. For him to get rewarded with a great day, is really good,” Smart said. “Because he worked all spring.”
Smart also complimented Tyler Simmons – who was the leading receiver for the Red Team on G-Day (the second team). And of course there was the much-discussed Mecole Hardman. Between Simmons, Holloman and Hardman, the trio combined for 11 catches, 253 yards and two touchdowns, catching passes for the Red Team and Jake Fromm.
There’s plenty of excitement about the potential of all three. The question is how many of them, if any, will break through into the main rotation, where the talent may not be as strong, but the experience is.
So as we continue the post-spring depth chart series, let’s delve into the men who will be lining up to catch the passes:
WIDE RECEIVER (X)
- Returning starter: Javon Wims, Sr.
- Notable reserves: Riley Ridley, Soph.; J.J. Holloman, Fr.
- On the way: Mark Webb, Fr.
- Analysis: The X spot, also referred to a split end, is usually going to be someone who can stretch the field and be a focal point of the passing game. Terry Godwin, the team’s second-leading receiver last year, will have the ability to play in all three roles, as will many of these receivers, especially the most experience. For simplicity purposes we’ll break them up this way. Wims and Ridley should have prominent roles, while Holloman could too, depending on how he continues to develop. Webb will be given a chance to play, but it may be hard given the bodies ahead of him.
- Prediction: Wims (17 catches last year) and Ridley (12 catches) each double their total this year. Holloman slightly exceeds Ridley’s impact last year, when he had 238 yards and two touchdowns.
WIDE RECEIVER (Z)
- Returning starter: Michael Chigbu, Jr.
- Notable reserves: Jayson Stanley, Jr.; Tyler Simmons, Soph.
- On the way: Matt Landers, Fr.; Trey Blount, Fr.
- Analysis: The Z spot, also referred to as flanker, is usually reserved for a better blocker, although in the case of all three main receiving spots, players will be put on the field and moved around in order to make plays. Chigbu may not excite many fans, but the coaches see him as the best blocker and one of the most knowledgeable players on the offense. Stanley, who hopes he’s put his drops issues behind him, will need to if he hopes to play a lot. Simmons, who like Stanley offers a speed threat, will see the field if he can shore up the intangibles, mainly blocking. Landers and Blount offer good long-term potential, but as with Webb it may be difficult to crack the main rotation right away.
- Prediction: Chigbu (nine catches for 88 yards last year) also doubles that, and continues to play a lot of snaps. Stanley catches the first pass thrown his way, and he and Simmons each end up with between 12-18 catches this year.
- Returning starter: Terry Godwin, Jr.
- Notable reserves: Mecole Hardman, Soph.; Charlie Woerner, Soph.
- On the way: D’Andre Swift, Fr. (tailback).
- Analysis: The slot receiver became an actual separate position at Georgia’s spring practices, at least in terms of position groups during some drills. Godwin, as mentioned earlier, will move around to all receiver spots, but he fits the mold of what they’re looking for at this spot: Speed, good hands and the ability to make plays in space. Hardman, who at this point looks clearly to be an offensive rather than defensive player, will continue to develop and if he does will have a big role on the offense. One can imagine him getting some of those jet sweeps that Isaiah McKenzie got last year. Woerner, meanwhile, continues to work with the tight ends, but his size would make him a match-up problem there. That’s why Isaaac Nauta and even fellow tight end Jackson Harris were also working at the slot. And of course so were tailbacks Sony Michel and Brian Herrien, and thus we predict Swift will too. Right now those guys still project as tight ends and tailbacks, but it’ll be interesting to see how this position develops into, well, a position.
- Prediction: Godwin is Georgia’s leading receiver, his numbers very similar to what McKenzie had last year (44 catches, 633 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.) Hardman ends up with around 500 total offensive yards this year, with around half of that on runs or screens. And Michel, Herrien and company also see a lot of time in the passing game.
- Returning starters: Isaac Nauta, Soph. and Jeb Blazevich, Sr.
- Notable reserves: Jackson Harris, Jr.; Charlie Woerner, Soph.; Jordan Harris, Jr.
- On the way: None.
- Analysis: Nauta has a great rapport with Eason, and it showed last year, but Blazevich, while starting all but two of Georgia’s games, once again saw his catches decrease. So did Jackson Harris. One of Jim Chaney’s charges this offseason has been to find a way to use the tight ends better, while not having Nauta take a step back after a really good freshman season.
- Prediction: Nauta’s catches (29 last year) go up slightly, but his receiving yards (361) and touchdowns (three) nearly double. As for the rest, well, the temptation is to say Blaevich and company will return to being a focal point, but at this point we have to see it to believe it.
PREVIOUSLY IN DEPTH CHART SERIES
Next: Running backs.