ATHENS – Somewhere lost amid Rodrigo Blankenship’s kicks, Sony Michel’s runs and Jacob Eason’s throws Saturday night at Kentucky was Javon Wims’ catches.
The junior from Miami made a noticeable leap in stature in the unspoken hierarchy that exists within Georgia’s receiving corps. Not only did Wims lead the Bulldogs with 5 receptions for 90 yards and haul in two critical passes on the game-winning drive in the 27-24 victory over the Wildcats, he was also targeted way more than any other wideout in the game – 10 times.
That’s new ground for this junior college transfer. Wims didn’t play in the opener, didn’t have a catch in the first three games and hadn’t made more than one reception in any contest until recording multiple catches in each of the last three games. His previous high was 3 catches for 32 yards against Vanderbilt.
“The coaching staff is doing a really good job of getting the most out of me every day,” said Wims, who signed with Georgia out of Hinds Community College in February. “I’ve picked things up in practice and practiced better. They’ve just done a good job of helping me get the most out of my potential.”
It makes sense that it took a while for Wims to make an impact at Georgia. His background before landing with the Bulldogs indicated that he would arrive raw and unpolished. As detailed in a Next Generation profile by DawgNation this past summer, Wims spent nearly two full seasons out of the game before resurrecting his career at the small junior college in Raymond, Miss. He caught 47 passes for 779 yards and a nine touchdowns and left there as JUCO’s No. 4-ranked wide receiver prospect, according to 247Sports.com.
Wims is 6-foot-4, 220-pounds. His production was attributed to just being bigger, stronger and faster against lesser competition. The subtleties of playing the position at the SEC level would have to be learned.
And Wims apparently has been doing that under the guidance of receivers coach James Coley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
“He’s getting confidence,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I think Coley and Jim are showing confidence in Javon and able to put him in positions to throw him the ball. He caught the one deep ball. He’s got to play a little faster throughout the game, but he had some big catches in the game.”
Wims landed himself in the SEC Network’s highlight package with a spectacular 51-yard catch early in the second quarter against Kentucky. On that play, Wims overcame the physical defense of senior cornerback J.D. Harmon, who was actually flagged for holding on the play, and hauled in Eason’s high-arcing spiral with a diving catch.
But Wims’ most important catches were more of the routine variety. Twice on Georgia’s game-winning drive, both times on second-and-long, Wims snatched the hard-thrown out-routes from Eason that each resulted in 12-yard gains and two first downs on the six-play, 67-yard drive.
“Our coaches have done a really good job preparing us for moments like that,” Wims said. “We work on that, two-minute offense, every day in practice. We just went out and executed what we do in practice in two-minute situations.”
If Wims continues to improve at his current rate – 10 receptions in the last three games after have two in the first six – the Bulldogs might actually be able to lay claim to having the big, physical receiver they so desperately sought coming into the season. He actually moved past Michael Chigbu and Riley Ridley to fifth on the team receptions (12 for 150 yards) and third among wideouts. He’s still holding out for that elusive touchdown.
“He’s a little more mature, a little older,” Smart said a couple of weeks ago. “He’s been able to pick it up. I think the biggest thing with Javon Wims is he’s been able to get more confidence in just catching the ball and he and Jacob have gotten a better rapport. And that will only grow as they continue to go through the season.”
Prophetic words those turned out to be.