ATHENS — This much Georgia’s offensive coaching staff knows: Barring something unforeseen, A.J. Green will line up as the top receiver when play opens next month.
Who starts on the other side, or in the slot, however, remains a mystery and one of the most intense competitions of preseason camp.
Tavarres King was the anointed starter at split end, but he was suspended for the opener after an alcohol-related arrest in July. And even then, King is far from a proven commodity, a redshirt sophomore who caught 18 passes for 377 yards last season.
Whoever emerges, the mere presence of Green should help, according to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
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“It opens up a lot of opportunities for a lot of our skills positions, receivers, tight ends, running backs, the run game, because we’ve got a guy like A.J.,” Bobo said. “The thing I like about our receivers, we don’t have a lot of quantity, but we’ve got some guys who’ve got a lot of experience in football games.”
The exception, Bobo added, was true freshman Michael Bennett. The Alpharetta native offers the team height, much like Green, and is getting a shot in preseason.
Otherwise, the candidates have been seen before, although in one case it’s been awhile.
Kris Durham, who is 6-foot-5, has spent a lot of time in the trainer’s room the past two years. After a healthy first few seasons — when he appeared in 13 games apiece — the slide started with an ankle injury in 2008, which caused him to miss games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
That healed, but in the week before the game against Georgia Tech he broke his hand. He returned in time to play in the Capital One Bowl, where he caught three passes for 32 yards.
But after those injury comebacks, he was finally taken out by a left shoulder injury last year and had to take a medical redshirt.
Durham said the shoulder feels better now than the spring but added that “but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, that’s for sure.”
Rantavious Wooten, a product of talent-rich Belle Glades Central (Fla.) High School, started three games as a true freshman. But he didn’t show the consistency that coaches wanted, going from 64 receiving yards against Kentucky to not being a factor in other games.
“I think he showed flashes last year, maybe was a bit inconsistent, but that comes with being a freshman. Along the same lines, he’ll get that experience,” Bobo said. “He’s gotten bigger. He’s gotten stronger in the weight room. That should help us, too. But he’s gotta be a contributor for us.”
Wooten agreed with Bobo’s assessment.
“There were some times I got discouraged because of my lack of playing time,” Wooten said. “But I just said, ‘I should push through it. My time will come if I just continue to work hard and get the coaches attention.’ That’s what I’m working on now.”
Then there’s Marlon Brown, a 6-5 sophomore who played in eight games last year but caught just two passes. The group of candidates also includes junior Israel Troupe, sophomore Taylor Bradberry and a trio of redshirt freshmen.
Georgia also has Logan Gray, the converted quarterback who has looked better than expected at his new position, according to Durham.
But given that the other candidates for the job are younger, Durham could have an advantage, if he can get healthy.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself, so I believe I do have a leg up,” Durham said. “But at the same time I’ve gotta continue to work, because there’s guys like Tavarres and Marlon and Wooten, all those guys they’re working extremely hard, so they’re not just gonna give up easily.”