The Bulldogs are bringing back their entire core with the exception of Marlon Brown and Tavarres King, and should have one of the most stable groups in the Southeastern Conference. Experience is a major reason for that. Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Justin Scott-Wesley, Rhett McGowan and Rantavious Wooten are all seasoned with at least two years under receivers coach Tony Ball. And even though it's his first year at Georgia, Jonathan Rumph has played significantly at the JUCO level.
Perhaps the most impressive facet the receivers hold, especially after last year's outing, is their resiliency. The Bulldog wideouts faced a multitude of injuries in 2012. Both Bennett and Brown suffered season-ending ACL tears, and each led the team in receiving at the time of their respective injuries. Malcolm Mitchell was also banged up a few times last year, most notably in the season opener and finale. But Georgia didn't quiver – other guys stepped up.
Take Conley, for instance. As a sophomore last year, he hauled in six touchdowns while averaging 17.1 yards per catch. And though some might be quick to point that he was just short of the end zone during the SEC championship, they should also note that his 87-yard touchdown was the nail in the coffin in Georgia's Capital One Bowl victory over Nebraska. Conley has the hands to snag stunning catches and the speed to break away for long runs after the catch. As of now, he will probably serve as the No. 3 guy – behind Bennett and Mitchell.
Another guy I'm really high on is Scott-Wesley. Because of the depth in front of him and an injury of his own last year, Scott-Wesley didn't play all too much. But JSW, as teammates sometimes call him, really came on towards the end of the season and showed glimpses of greatness. Like Conley, he's a guy that has breakaway speed and can be utilized in the cross patterns that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo employs.
Bennett's presence poses two curious questions for the Georgia offense in 2013 – can he step up as an outside receiver after playing primarily in the slot? And will he be as effective as he was before his ACL tear? The answer to both is ‘Yes.' Bennett might be a generous 6-foot-3, but he is physical enough to fight for passes against some of the SEC's top corners. He and quarterback Aaron Murray have developed a solid chemistry too, and Murray has faith to take a chance on some passes because he knows Bennett can come down with them. With reference to Bennett's recovery, he is still not back to full form – yet. When I spoke with him last November, he told me that he was ahead of schedule and should be ready for preseason camp in August. Bennett is a guy that plays with a big chip on his shoulder and isn't someone who is going to let a knee injury hold him back.
Opposite Bennett this fall will be Malcolm Mitchell, who I consider Georgia's most explosive player. What held him back from having the staggering numbers he did as a freshman was his brief stint on defense. But that was necessary early in 2012 due to the high number of suspensions in the secondary. Coach Mark Richt confirmed this offseason that Mitchell will not be going back to the defensive side again, and will focus solely on playing receiver for the remainder of his Georgia career. The one thing he needs to work on is staying healthy, as he's missed games in each of his first two years.
Then there are the new guys – Rumph, J.J. Green and Tramel Terry. Rumph should almost assuredly make an impact this fall, especially since he arrives with collegiate experience. At 6-foot-5, he also becomes the team's tallest receiver. He should be great in redzone formations, especially those where he has to jump for the ball. Green, on the other hand, is just 5-foot-9 and can play a plethora of positions. At Camden Co. (Kingsland, Ga.), Green caught passes from Georgia early enrollee, Brice Ramsey. And though some schools recruited Green as a corner, but Richt pegged him to play wideout – at least for now. Green has the speed that could land him in the backfield as a running back someday, but not yet at least. Because of the depth at receiver right now, he will probably redshirt this year.
Terry, however, doesn't plan on redshirting. South Carolina's top recruit told me in Orlando that he's working furiously towards recovering from his ACL tear in December. Enrolling early will assuredly speed up that process, but it's still tough to say how effective he'll be this fall. If he does not end up redshirting, he will likely play a small role at receiver, with primary duties on special teams.
With the vast depth Bobo has at receiver, Georgia will likely run a lot of four and five-wide sets that he did a year ago. Known for being a run-first coordinator, Bobo made somewhat of a shift last year simply because the personnel was fit for it, so don't expect things to drastically change. Georgia's aerial attack in 2013 will be one that even outside spectators will find quite fun to watch.
Stayed tuned each Thursday for Daniel Kramer's breakdown of the 2013 Georgia offense. Next week we look at the interior lineman, who are poised for a strong spring after a full year under their belts.