Massaquoi's 2006 could be very big

ATHENS – Mohamed Massaquoi is opening up, and that may be a bad thing for Georgia's opponents.

The sophomore led all Bulldog wide receivers in catches last year as a true freshman, while also finishing last on the spoken-word statistics sheet. Almost painfully shy, Massaquoi could be counted on last year for three-word answers in public settings.

Now, wide receivers coach John Eason can't get him to shut up.

"He constantly asks questions in meetings," Eason said, "and I think it's a healthy thing." Massaquoi also clearly is more comfortable around the media contingent that follows the team's most every move.

"With time, you grow, you become more comfortable with things," he said. "You relax a little bit more, and the more relaxed you are, the better you become. When you first come in, you're still trying to figure out what college is about on and off the field. As you grow and mature, you get a little more comfortable with things."

If Massaquoi's comfort level increases as much on the field, he could make for some long days for SEC cornerbacks. As a player, he describes himself as "little bit faster, little bit stronger, little bit smarter" than last year, but Eason says there's nothing little about the progress Massaquoi has made.

"This year, from Day 1, I thought he carried it to another level, with just his effort, his running of routes, everything," Eason said. "He's always been able to catch the football, but now he's (improved in) running after the catch, the confidence, the constant quest for knowledge."

Massaquoi caught 38 passes for 505 yards and two touchdowns last year and stood out from his teammates with his ability not only to hang onto the pedestrian passes but also make some outstanding grabs.

"For a true freshmen to come in and rise above eight other scholarship players is a tribute to his ability," Coach Mark Richt said. "He didn't run the best routes last year, but I knew if the ball was in his area, there was a real good chance he was going to come down with it. That's what separated him."

It's still what's separating him. The notion that quarterbacks look for a certain wide receiver is overblown, quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said, but both Bobo and Richt acknowledged that all four Georgia quarterbacks have the most faith in Massaquoi.

"The quarterback has certain progressions where they have to go to certain guys based on what the coverage dictates," Bobo said, "but it's our job as coaches to find ways where that progression is going to end up going to No. 1 (Massaquoi)."

Massaquoi has made figurative leaps and bounds in his route-running this year while also taking literal leaps and bounds out of his running stride. The Charlotte, N.C., native ran with choppy steps last year, Eason said, and the coaching staff worked to lengthen his gait.

"Now he's striding out more, which means he can hopefully move faster," Eason said. "I thought that was one of the biggest adjustments he made."

Massaquoi also has improved his mental game, Eason said.

"Last year, he would give effort, but when bad things happened, it was almost like he'd come to a complete stop thinking about it," Eason said.

This year, he has pushed through several tough practices and shown no signs of quitting.

"I'm a hard worker," Mohamed Massaquoi said. "I'm really not into predicting as far as numbers and everything, but I want to improve on everything, just helping my team become the best that we can."

It's been 13 seasons since a Bulldog had 60 or more catches in a season, but Massaquoi could threaten that number this year.

"If he keeps catching the ball like he has," Richt said, "he's going to get a bunch for us this year."

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