Prepare Like A Starter

ATHENS - With an array of injuries to Georgia's offense, the Dawgs will need veteran leadership on Saturday.

One player who has more experience than just about anyone on Georgia's offense is senior wide receiver Rantavious Wooten. Wooten is currently in his fifth year at Georgia after receiving a medical redshirt in 2011. Wooten's medical redshirt came after he suffered a severe concussion during a car accident. Wooten tried returning to the field in the weeks following the accident, but said it just didn't feel right.

"I guess it was pretty bad," Wooten said. "It's just one of those things where it really didn't go away and several doctors told me the same thing; no physical activity or physical exertion, so as time went on I just had to take that medical redshirt."

Though disappointed by receiving the redshirt, Wooten did his best to take some good out of the situation.

"At first it was really hard," Wooten said. "That was the first time since probably middle school that I actually missed that amount of time not playing a sport. It was hard at first, but I took some good from it. It gave me an extra year to better myself as a man and a football player."

Wooten showed how far he has come since then last Saturday with two touchdown receptions in Georgia's win over Tennessee. While one came early in the game, the second came in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to force overtime. Coaches have said Aaron Murray's pass was impressively accurate, but Wooten made the route his own.

With Georgia's recent injuries, he and a few teammates will have to make plays like that in the future.

"There's always pressure as an offense to come back and perform so we've just got to get some young guys ready that haven't had a lot of reps," Wooten said. "You always have to be ready. We're going to play Georgia football."

Georgia football will be missing a few important pieces as it takes the field on Saturday. Receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett each underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair their right knee injuries. Keith Marshall still requires surgery, which will be performed within the next three weeks, according to staff reports. While Bennett is expected to return this season after the right knee menisectomy, Scott-Wesley and Marshall will not.

Wooten was there to aid his teammates whom he said seem to be doing well.

"I just told them to keep their head up," Wooten said. "Just look forward to the road to recovery and work hard to get back on the field as quickly as possible. Those guys seem like they have great spirit and great minds, so I feel like they're in a pretty good mindset to be ready for this."

Georgia's active receiving corps will have to be ready for it as well. However, with the help of veteran leaders like Wooten and Chris Conley, senior Rhett McGowan says the Dawgs will be fine whether the onlookers know it or not.

"We're deep in the receivers room and we know that," McGowan said. "A lot of other people don't know that because they haven't played, but these guys are at Georgia for a reason. They're talented players and we'll fill in the roles and make plays on Saturday."

Georgia can't look at the past, including what happened at Tennessee. It has a game against an undefeated conference opponent on Saturday.

"There's no time to waste," McGowan said. "The next man's just got to step up and make plays when their number is called."

Murray expects Wooten to be one of the guys who makes those plays due to the fact the Belle Glade, Fla. native has battled adversity before. The season after he received his medical redshirt, Wooten appeared in 14 games and caught 15 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. This will be a time when Wooten has to overcome yet another difficult situation.

"Woot is an awesome receiver; he's just been plagued with injuries his first few years," Murray said. "But a guy who I have a lot of trust in, a guy who I know can make a lot of plays for us and he made some pretty big ones for us last week at a position he really hasn't played too much at all during his time here at Georgia."

An important position Wooten needs to focus on now is being a leader. He's had plenty of time at Georgia, which is what tight end Arthur Lynch says benefits this team most.

"I think you have to look at some of the young guys who got playing time in a tough environment on the road last Saturday," Lynch said. "Then you have to look at a guy like Wooten who has been here five years, a guy who really had one of the better games of his career the other day. It's still good to know that he can play at a high level."

Regardless of what Wooten has done this season or in past seasons, he's a main target now. That's nothing new to Wooten though, because he's always been prepared to perform. His coaches taught him that.

"You never know what's going to happen to the next man or yourself so just continue to play ball," Wooten said. "Coach [Tony] Ball always tells me to prepare like a starter. All the guys know that in the room and I know that myself and I always have that in the back of my head. Any guy can be the next man up. At the end of the day we get ready for those types of situations."

Injuries are tough for a team as well as an individual. Wooten now knows that because he's dealt with a season-ending injury himself. It's something Georgia has to deal with too, and some new faces will have to step up in order for it to do that. Wooten has confidence in his team, and says it's going in the right direction.

"It definitely helped me in the end because I'm here for this team right now and we have a great run going," Wooten said. "It definitely benefited me I feel."


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