The newcomer who could stand tall in Georgia's offense

semerson@macon.comFebruary 20, 2013 

ATHENS - Jonathan Rumph, by his own description, is "slim and tall," and thus the same kind of receiver as A.J. Green. And actually now that it's mentioned, Rumph and Green are both from South Carolina, and kind of even look alike in the face, and ...

OK, let's stop before getting more carried away. Realistically, the Georgia football team - and Rumph himself - are more hopeful that he can compare to another tall receiver who just left the program: Marlon Brown, who like Rumph is 6-foot-5.

Either way Rumph, a junior college transfer who enrolled at UGA this semester, plans on being one of the few new contributors on a veteran-laden offense in 2013.

"I feel real confident that I can come in here and help these guys win," Rumph said recently. "Coming in here as a junior college transfer it gives me a good opportunity to get on the field and help the team win. So I feel like I've got a good chance - a great chance."

It's been a less-traditional journey to this point for Rumph.

He grew up in Cayce, S.C., which is a town immediately across the bridge from Columbia. It's a five-minute drive from his high school, Brookland-Cayce, to the University of South Carolina campus.

Rumph's high school football career got off to a good start, but as a junior he moved to quarterback, slightly derailing his development at receiver. Of course, that wasn't his only problem.

"I hold my own: I didn't take care of my grades. I didn't focus on my main parts, on my grades, and I had to take the JUCO route," he said.

As a result, Rumph said he didn't hear from South Carolina or Georgia coming out of high school. He remembers hearing from Joker Phillips at Kentucky, but once that school heard about his grades they backed off too. So it was off to Holmes Community College in Mississippi.

That's where he found success, combining for 87 catches and more than 1,300 receiving yards as a freshman and sophomore. He also got his grades up to snuff.

"I made it my goal to make my dream a reality," Rumph said.

It worked, and the Gamecocks and Bulldogs did reach out to him. But Rumph had gotten to like being away for college.

"I didn't want to be around so many friends and family. I felt like that was a distraction," he said. "Georgia, I felt like that was the best option for me."

Georgia was eager to sign him too, especially given that he could enroll early and potentially play right away.

Rumph realizes it's a crowded receiver rotation, and not assuming any role. Receivers coach Tony Ball tends to like to play six-to-seven players, and right now he basically has set spots for Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett (presumably recovered from his ACL injury), Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten and Justin Scott-Wesley. Rhett McGowan, the former walk-on, also has a pretty good shot.

Georgia also signed three other receivers - Rico Johnson, Reggie Davis and Uriah LeMay - and two athletes who can play the position - Tramel Terry and J.J. Green. The most highly-touted is Terry, but he's recovering from an ACL injury, so his ability to play right away is uncertain.

Not so Rumph, who said he's spending this semester studying the playbook, learning the offense, and throwing twice a week with Aaron Murray, his new quarterback. Murray has had a big receiver to throw to for most of his three seasons as a starter: the 6-4 Green as a freshman, and the 6-5 Brown the next two years.

"He's excited about a big receiver," Rumph said. "But we're just here to make plays, and that's what we do."

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