ATHENS - In some quarters, the expectations are fairly high for Jonathan Rumph's long-awaited Georgia debut. Even Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin brought up Rumph during his appearance on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference.
"They signed one of the top junior college players in the country in Jonathan Rumph. A wide receiver who's gonna play this week from what I'm hearing and seeing," Franklin said.
That's true: Rumph is finally expected to play on Saturday, after missing the first six games with a hamstring injury. But how much of an impact will Rumph have, especially on an injury-deleted receiving corps?
Georgia head coach Mark Richt sought to tamp down expectations.
"He hasn't played all year, obviously. He hasn't practiced in a long time, or at least before this week. He's still getting comfortable with the system. So to think he'll make a huge impact, it'd be hard to predict that," Richt said.
"But hopefully he'll get in the game and when he gets opportunities he makes plays. Like I've said for a lot of years, our system has very few passes that are earmarked for just one guy. So if he's in the game and there's a pass called, he's one of many who might be in a progression, so he could easily get the ball thrown to him as anybody else."
Still, one indication of the staff's confidence in Rumph is this: While a couple other junior college defensive backs are being redshirted despite the issues in the secondary, Richt said they would have played Rumph even if the receiving position had stayed healthy.
"We were wanting to play Rumph," Richt said. "Rumph had a good camp, finished good in the spring. Our goal was to play him this year when we saw him perform in camp. It was just unfortunate he pulled a muscle. But hopefully now he can make up for it."
Two years ago Chris Conley, then a freshman receiver, didn't play until the second half of the season. But he ended up being a solid contributor that year.
"It's not too late," Richt said.
Richt said there hasn't been consideration of moving anybody else to receiver.
"There's too much to learn," Richt said. "If you did you'd be very, very limited."
Junior college travails
Normally junior college signees make an immediate impact, but that hasn't quite been the case at Georgia this season.
Rumph is a junior college signee, and he is only set to play now. Defensive backs Shaq Fluker and Kennar Johnson are expected to redshirt after having trouble cracking the depth chart.
The other two JUCO signees have played: Chris Mayes (a sophomore, who redshirted one year in junior college) and Toby Johnson are part of the rotation on the defensive line. Mayes has a sack and seven tackles, Johnson has three tackles, including a tackle-for-loss.
Johnson was out of Wednesday's practice with a left knee injury, the severity of which UGA's official injury report did not disclose.
"Part of our philosophy this particular year in recruiting, being that it was such a large class, we wanted to get a few junior college guys just to create some separation between the classes," Richt said. "If we signed 33 guys (who were) freshmen, that's a lot of guys in one class. So by bringing in some junior college players to create some separation and depth in this year's class, that was part of the strategy.
"This past year was a little bit different than past years. So it's not necessarily a disappointment or a shock."
Being there for Scott-Wesley
It must have been a surreal scene in the hospital room last week at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens. Justin Scott-Wesley, recuperating from knee surgery that day, sat for four hours with fellow receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who suffered the same ACL injury six weeks before. Tight end Jay Rome was also there, along with Scott-Wesley's parents and girlfriend.
Rome said he was there for about four hours, trying to keep Scott-Wesley's mind off the surgery, or even football. They watched the movie "Ali."
"It was kind of laid-back, trying not to make it seem like the hospital as much as possible," Rome said. "We didn't want to talk anything about football, or anything about his knee. We just kind of wanted to be there for him."
Rome had offered to sleep at the hospital, but Scott-Wesley had enough family with him.
So how are Mitchell and Scott-Wesley handling the season-ending injuries?
"I'm really proud of the mindset that both of them have," Rome said. "They haven't let it get them down, and it has they haven't shown anybody it's gotten them down."
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