Today, we are just seven short days away from the start of practice, and we are catching up with the wide receivers in our 2017 UGA Football Spring Preview series
LOOKING BACK BEFORE LOOKING AHEAD
Under Georgia Wide Receiver Coach James Coley, the Bulldog pass catchers struggled as a group last season. Part of that was due to working with the new offensive coaching staff in their first year under Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney as well as having a true freshman at quarterback in Jacob Eason. Dropped passes were a problem throughout the year, and while Eason struggled with accuracy at times, it was frustrating to watch an open receiver drop a ball that hit them right in the old bread basket. As my wide receiver’s coach used to say, “if the ball hits you the hands, you better catch it son.”
Statistically, there wasn’t much change from the production of the receivers under Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney and WR Coach James Coley in 2016 from 2015 and Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and WR Coach Bryan McClendon. Seven receivers caught 130 receptions for 1,678 yards and 10 touchdowns out of the total 2,515 receiving yards on 212 receptions for 16 touchdowns produced on offense for 2016. Compare that to 2015, when eight receivers caught 122 receptions for 1,644 yards and 8 touchdowns out of the total 2,406 receiving yards on 199 receptions for 14 touchdowns produced on offense.
RETURNING WIDE RECEIVERS
Let’s take a look at which receivers are back from last year’s team and who Coach Coley has to work with this spring.
Name | Number | Class | Height and Weight | Hometown
Michael Chigbu – No. 82 – SO | 6 foot 2, and 213 lbs | New Orleans, LA
Terry Godwin – No. 5 – SO | 5 foot 11, and 185 lbs | Hogansville, GA
Riley Ridley – No. 8 – FR | 6 foot 2, and 197 lbs | Coconut Creek, FL
Tyler Simmons – No. 87 – FR | 6 foot 0, and 206 lbs | Powder Springs, GA
Jayson Stanley – No. 2 – SO | 6 foot 2, and 207 lbs | Fairburn, GA
Shakenneth Williams – No. 23 – JR | 6 foot 1, and 208 lbs | Macon, GA
Javon Wims – No. 6 – JR | 6 foot 4, and 215 lbs | Miami, FL
The Walk-ons (WO) and Preferred Walk-ons (PWO)
Name | Number | Class | Height and Weight | Hometown
Patrick Burke (WO) – No. 26 – FR | 6 foot 3, and 197 lbs | Marietta, GA
Willie Erdman (WO) – No. 19 – FR | 5 and 10, and 191 lbs | Merritt Island, FL
Davis Kelly (WO) – No. 86 – FR | 6 foot 3, and 207 lbs | Alpharetta, GA
Josh Moran (WO) – No. 17 – FR | 6 foot 2, and 193 lbs | Alpharetta, GA
Wyatt Payne (WO) – No. 84 – RS FR | 6 foot 1, and 175 lbs | Dublin, GA
Matt Price (WO) – No. 29 – RS SO | 6 foot 0, and 198 lbs | Snellville, GA
Steven Van Tiflin (WO) – No. 25 – RS SO | 6 foot 1, and 207 lbs | Saginaw, MI
For senior receivers Reggie Davis, Charlie Hegedus, and Kenneth Towns, last season was their final one as a college football player in the red and black. The Bulldogs’ leading WR for 2016, junior Isaiah McKenzie decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, and sophomore Shaquery Wilson transferred. Everyone else is back.
The group of receivers returning for 2017 are not as young as last year’s, but also don’t have a lot of production in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. There are three rising juniors in Michael Chigbu, Terry Godwin, and Jayson Stanley; two rising seniors in Shakenneth Williams and Javon Wims; and a couple of a couple of rising sophomores in Riley Ridley and Tyler Simmons.
Out of that group, Terry Godwin is the most experienced with 26 games under his belt. He has started 13 of them. Godwin is also the Bulldogs leading returning receiver. In two years, Godwin has reeled in 73 catches for 776 receiving yards, but only has 2 receiving touchdowns.
Michael Chigbu has the most game experience next to Godwin having played in 20 games the last two seasons, starting 6 of them last year, but doesn’t have a lot of production to show for all that time on the field with 13 catches for 116 yards and no receiving touchdowns. As with a number of Georgia receivers last season, Chigbu struggled to hold onto the ball at times. His 9 catches for 88 yards in 2016 came in the first seven games, but he didn’t record a reception in the last six as he fought through injuries causing him to also miss the final three games against Louisiana-Lafayette and GT as well as the Liberty Bowl game versus TCU.
After Chigbu and Godwin, the Bulldogs get either very young or will be looking to receivers that haven’t had a lot of starts.
Shakenneth Williams struggled to see the field in 2016, playing in two games after having seen action in eight games in 2015 and five games as a freshman in 2014. In his three years at UGA, Williams has 4 catches for 71 yards and no touchdowns. He did not record a catch last season.
Jayson Stanley is going into his third season with Georgia. He has played in 12 games, nine of those as a sophomore last year, starting five. Like Chigbu, for his time on the field, he just doesn’t have a lot of production to show for his effort with only 2 catches for 23 yards from three games he played as a freshman. Stanley was coming off a serious knee injury he suffered his senior year in high school for his first year at Georgia, but it was frustrating for fans and coaches as well as Stanley himself in seeing him struggle in 2016. He did not record a single reception, and this was after he performed well in last year’s spring G-Day game with 4 catches for 87 yards. Out of all the wideouts, he seemed to have the worse case of the drops.
Javon Wims is the other rising senior on the team at receiver besides Williams. He was a JUCO transfer last season from Hinds Community College and put up decent production in his first year with the Bulldogs. Wims played in 13 games and started in three where he hauled in 16 catches and a touchdown.
Riley Ridley had moments during his freshman debut in 2016 where he brought in 12 catches for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns, but what stands out is that he averaged nearly 20 yards per catch, the most out of the returning receivers. Tyler Simmons saw limited playing time last year as a freshman, participating in six games where he caught 2 passes for 19 yards.
LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN
Georgia is going to have to replace last year’s top producing receiver Isaiah McKenzie who had 633 receiving yards on 44 catches and 7 touchdowns. The ‘Human Joystick’ stepped up in 2016 to take the place of 2015’s DGD Malcolm Mitchell; so, who is going to be ‘the man’ in 2017?
As with last year, I expect Georgia to play its receivers by committee. By that, I mean we will likely see guys being rotated in and out. This will be true in spring camp for Coaches Chaney and Coley, and I would not be surprised to see it early on in the season either. At least, not until a couple of guys rise to the top.
The big question is whether or not the athletic and talented Terry Godwin can step up to be the No. 1 guy or at the very least play in a role similar to I-Mac’s last year. The Georgia coaching staff requires their receivers to block to get snaps and see playing time, and this is something he has struggled with on and off. Although Tyler Simmons didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, he could be used in a role similar to McKenzie because of his athleticism and speed.
I would like to see Michael Chigbu, Jayson Stanley, or Shakenneth Williams put it all together and become a true No. 1 receiver, but who actually might do just that could be Javon Wims. Georgia has not had much luck with JUCO players, but Wims started to really come on strong in the latter half of the season. Most of his production came in the last 7 games. If he continues that growth and progression, with his size and ability, he could be just what the Bulldogs need.
And what about Riley Ridley? Well, unfortunately, he got busted for the ‘wacky-weed’ on March 12th. The good news is that it is just a misdemeanor. The bad news is that UGA’s Alcohol & Drug policy mandates that a student-athlete must sit out 10% of the season’s competition; which, for a football player means 2 games out of a 12-game regular season schedule. Ridley could potentially miss the two opening contests against Appalachian State and Notre Dame, but he could still be eligible to practice this spring and fall. If he can overcome this minor setback, I expect Ridley to have a big sophomore campaign for the good guys in red and black, even if he does miss a couple of games.
However, there is a new Bulldog in town that could end up making the most noise and his name is Jeremiah Holloman. The 6 foot 1.25 and 195 lbs athlete out of Newton County High School from Covington, GA is an early enrollee for Georgia for the 2017 recruiting class. Holloman is one of the highest rated receivers UGA has signed since Malcolm Mitchell or A.J. Green, and he actually reminds me somewhat of Mitchell. Don’t be surprised if he lights up spring practice and is counted among the top four wide receivers on the depth chart headed into fall camp.
MEET THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Speaking of new faces, let’s take a look at the other wide receiver signees in Georgia’s 2017 recruiting class who will be joining the team later on this summer.
UGA’s 2017 Wide Receiver Signees
Name | Height and Weight | High School and Hometown
Trey Blount | 6 foot 2, and 196 lbs | Pace Academy, Atlanta, GA
Jeremiah Holloman (EE) | 6 foot 1.25, and 195 lbs | Newton Co. High School, Covington, GA
Matt Landers | 6 foot 5, and 182 lbs | St. Petersburg High School, Pinellas Park, FL
Mark Webb | 6 foot 1.5, and 200 lbs | Archbishop Wood High School, Warminster, PA
The Bulldogs signed four scholarship wide receivers for 2017 plus one walk-on. John Taylor Dooley, the son of Derek Dooley and grandson of former Georgia Head Coach and Athletic DirectionVince Dooley is set to be a walk-on with the team this season. He is 6 foot 1 and 175 lbs receiver out of Highland Park High School in Dallas, TX. Mark Webb, a cousin of 2017 running back signee D’Andre Swift, could be as good as Holloman, but the sleeper in this foursome could very well be three-star prospect Matt Landers. He is raw, but with his size and athleticism, he has the potential to be a Mike Evans type receiver for Georgia. Landers will need time to develop as a receiver and to add some muscle to his frame; so, I would be surprised to see him on the field this season. Trey Blount also gets overlooked in this recruiting class, but he could be a Chris Conley type player for the Bulldogs.
Next to the offensive line, the wide receivers are the position group with the most questions in my opinion, but there is hope that the pass-catching corps could potentially be one of the most improved for the 2017 season. How so? Jacob Eason is no longer a true freshman and the game should be slowing down for him in year two, giving ‘Skinny’ the opportunity to see the field better and deliver passes to the receivers that are open. There is also something to be said about how comfortable the QB is with his receivers. Eason will have had a full year to work with most of the receivers on the roster come spring, and by fall, a solid 17 to 18 months.
For veterans like Michael Chigbu, Terry Godwin, and Jayson Stanley, they will have had a full year in Jim Chaney’s offensive system. I believe that will make a difference for them, and Georgia really needs them to step up to have more success on offense this season. Plus, the newcomers as a group are the highest rated receivers Georgia has signed since Malcolm Mitchell and A.J. Green. I may have said that once or twice before, but Holloman and Webb have the potential to see a lot of playing time early and often.
But For the receiving corps to reach the level of improvement I am expecting, they need to work on their route running in order to create more separation from defensive backs to give Jacob Eason a better opportunity to get them the ball. And of course, when the pigskin hits them right between the numbers in the hands, they are going to have make those catches.
PROJECTED SPRING DEPTH CHART
X1 Terry Godwin | X2 Michael Chigbu
Y1 Javon Wims | Y2 Riley Ridley
Z1 Jeremiah Holloman | Z2 Jayson Stanley
Catch up on the other position groups in the 2017 UGA Football Spring Preview series from Bulldawg Illustrated:
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Defensive Backs – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Defensive Line – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Linebackers – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Offensive Line – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Quarterbacks – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Running Backs – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Special Teams – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Tight Ends – CLICK HERE
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