After the wide receivers had their ups and downs in 2016, Georgia was looking for some growth and improvement this spring despite losing last year’s leading receiver, junior Isaiah McKenzie to the NFL Draft. Did the Bulldogs find that ‘go to’ receiver they’ve been looking for or will it be catching by committee for 2017?
For those of you that happened to follow along over the spring, there were four key points of information that one could ascertain from the receiving corps and the coaches on the WRs.
Terry Godwin found his ‘moxie.’
Junior Terry Godwin appears to have grabbed the bull by the horns and stepped up his game. Godwin has always been a gifted athlete with great hands, but the coaching staff have wanted to see No. 5 be more physical, show a little more ‘moxie.’ That is not surprising as it sometimes takes receivers 2 to 3 years out of high school to find their stride in college. And that is good to hear as he is the Bulldogs’ most experienced, plus, most productive receiver returning for 2017. Godwin brings 73 catches for 776 receiving yards in 26 games, 13 of those he has started, back to the field for Georgia. Although the G-Day spring game is a glorified scrimmage, Godwin did look good and led all receivers with 130 yards on 6 receptions. If he can be that productive from game to game, then Georgia should not have an issue replacing Isaiah McKenzie’s production.
Freshman Jeremiah Holloman looks and practices the part.
What does that mean? Jeremiah Holloman enrolled early in January, and the 6 foot 1.25 and 195 lbs WR from Covington, GA out of Newton County High School and didn’t look like a freshman. Physically, he already looks the part of a SEC receiver (just check out the ‘gun show’ in the above picture). Add to that, from the limited amount of time that the media saw Georgia practice, he is like linebacker Roquan Smith in that he goes all out in practice and competes hard. This was echoed by Head Coach Kirby Smart in his press conferences when talking about Jeremiah Holloman. He is still a freshman and Coach Smart was quick to remind us that ‘J.J.’ did some good things and bad things. That is to be expected, but if Holloman’s work ethic and desire to compete matches his athletic ability and talent, he will be doing more good things in the near future.
Sophomore Mecole Hardman, Jr. got a lot of looks and work at wide receiver.
So does that mean that Mecole is switching from defense to offense and will be playing exclusively at WR like he did during Georgia’s G-Day spring game on April 22? I’m not 100% sure that that will be the case. I went into detail about what Mecole’s role could potentially be for 2017 early in May. I know fans are excited about what they saw out of the sophomore at receiver during the spring game as well as bits and pieces from practice. Hardman is still raw as a receiver. He is further along at defensive back. As Coach Smart reiterates in his press conferences over the spring, Mecole didn’t play at WR or much at DB in high school. He was a dynamic athlete that his coaches at Elbert County used as much as possible as a playmaker on offense, snapping the ball to him.
I do feel like we will see Mecole Hardman at receiver on offense in 2017 as well as returning kicks on special teams, but I still think his primary position will be on defense in the secondary as a DB. Not unlike former Bulldogs Champ Bailey, Brandon Boykin, and Branden Smith.
Wide receiver by committee.
A number of fans who read “wide receiver by committee” will most likely not have fond memories of last year’s offense and the struggling passing game. It was what Kirby Smart put forth as an answer when asked about the receiving corps on more than one occasion. But “wide receiver by committee” is not necessarily a bad statement. The biggest take away from spring is that the coaching staff is still evaluating this group, which is very young or very experienced outside of Michael Chigbu, Terry Godwin, and Jayson Stanley.
We will likely see a rotation of receiver groups by Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney and wide receivers coach James Coley, at least to start the season. Coming out of spring I feel like Michael Chigbu, Terry Godwin, and Javon Wims are the number ones. Then you have three very talented but inexperienced receivers in Mecole Hardman, Jeremiah Holloman, and Tyler Simmons in that number two group. Which leads me to say a word about the depth chart that you see before you down below.
I expect Riley Ridley to work his way back into that number two group and the six top wide receiver rotation after the coaching staff have seen and feel like he has achieved the necessary goals they put in place for him after his off the field indiscretion with the wacky weed. We still don’t know if Riley will be suspended for one or two games or if any; however, according to UGA’s Alcohol and Drug Policy for student-athletes, Ridley is required to sit 10% of the schedule.
And you may question me putting Michael Chigbu as the No. 1 flanker, but he was one of the better blockers, more physical players at WR for Georgia. Remember that the coaching staff wants to see the receivers block and be physical. If a guy doesn’t want to block or mix it up, the chances of him seeing the field are less than those of player who is willing to put in the work to do those “little things.”
I’m also curious to see how the depth chart shakes out over fall camp, especially with the incoming freshmen receivers Trey Blount, Matt Landers, Mark Webb, Jr. and preferred walk-on, Trevor Lowe.
Non-receivers will be involved heavily in the passing offense.
I would also like to add, don’t be surprised to see non-wide receivers involved more in the passing game this season. Of course, I’m talking about the tight ends and running backs. Senior tailback Nick Chubb got a lot of work in pass receiving drills this spring, and the staff worked with him to improve his route running and receiving skills. And we all know what kind of a threat tailback Sony Michel is when he gets the ball in the open field in space. Another don’t be surprised adage is going to be far tight ends Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner. Don’t be surprised if Nauta is one of the top three receivers at the end of the season… again. Yes. You read that correctly. Nauta had the third most receptions and receiving yards on the 2016 Georgia squad. It is possible for Nauta to have a 40 to 45 reception season for over 550 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Which brings me to Charlie Woerner. Back during his recruitment, I thought Woerner would remain at WR, a big receiver, but a wide-out none-the-less. It is an opinion I defended staunchly on the comment sections at Bulldawg Illustrated… well… and here is mud in my eye. I was wrong. And that will not be the first nor the last time I am wrong either. Woerner has developed into a very athletic and imposing pass catching tight end. While he didn’t see as much action as he could have last year due to nagging injuries, if he stays healthy, he is going to be a weapon for the Georgia coaching staff and QB Jacob Eason on offense. He is just a nightmare for DBs and LBs to try and cover.
PROJECTED POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART: WIDE RECEIVERS
Bulldawg Illustrated’s projected post-spring depth chart at wide receiver for the Georgia Bulldogs headed into the summer and looking ahead to fall camp.
X1 | Javon Wims – No. 6 – SR | 6 foot 4, and 215 lbs | Miami, FL
X2 | Jeremiah Holloman – No. 9 FR | 6 foot 1.25, and 195 lbs | Covington, GA
X3 | Riley Ridley – No. 8 – SO | 6 foot 2, and 197 lbs | Coconut Creek, FL
Z1 | Michael Chigbu – No. 82 – JR | 6 foot 2, and 213 lbs | New Orleans, LA
Z2 | Tyler Simmons – No. 3 – SO | 6 foot 0, and 206 lbs | Powder Springs, GA
Z3 | Jayson Stanley – No. 2 – JR | 6 foot 2, and 207 lbs | Fairburn, GA
Y1 | Terry Godwin – No. 5 – JR | 5 foot 11, and 185 lbs | Hogansville, GA
Y2 | Mecole Hardman, Jr. – No. 4 – SO | 5 foot 11, and 183 lbs | Bowman, GA
Y3 | Tyler Simmons – No. 3 – SO | 6 foot 0, and 206 lbs | Powder Springs, GA
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