Georgia head coach Kirby Smart walked through the Wynfrey Hotel with confidence while making his media rounds.
There are a myriad of reasons to show some swagger. A successful team. A nationally-prominent program. A roster laden with talent. And yet another opportunity to be on the national title stage. But then there’s one looming question about his team’s biggest supposed weakness: wide receiver.
Georgia saw its best talents — Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley and Terry Godwin — bid their farewell to the Bulldogs. At that point, the focus shifted to Jeremiah Holloman to be the feature piece after leading all returning receivers in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Those plans vanished. Smart opted to dismiss Holloman from the team after allegedly assaulting a woman in 2018. She filed a report to the university police in June 2019.
“We were made aware in early June that there was an incident,” Smart said. “Once we were, we took immediate action and removed him from the team. Very unfortunate. We wish JJ the best.”
Georgia’s two offensive stalwarts, quarterback Jake Fromm and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, followed their coach to respond to inquiries about their fellow teammates on the offensive perimeter. There’s a rather steep task at hand to fill those talents with returning talents of senior Tyler Simmons, junior Demetris Robertson and sophomore Matt Landers.
Defensive back J.R. Reed mentioned this trio as one that has shaped the reformation efforts at the position. He cited a tough work ethic on display during 7-on-7 workouts, and sees them as vital building blocks toward passing game success.
“I don’t think it changes anything, because I think one of the biggest questions going into the season was going to be receiver,” Smart said, after suggesting the position was “thin” during spring practice. “It’ll be more glaring now because one of the guys getting a lot of touches is now gone. We were facing that issue anyway. I’m excited about the guys we’ve got and think they’ve worked really hard.”
Georgia also expects production from newcomers — two freshmen and a graduate transfer comprise that group. From the recruiting trail, Georgia added four-star Dominick Blaylock — a longtime pledge out of Walton — and coveted five-star George Pickens. The Bulldogs also pulled Lawrence Cager, an important piece to Miami’s offense last season, to work into the mix at receiver.
Based on the team’s new mantra of “do more,” Georgia does so with getting its wide receiver position in tact. Leave that to Fromm to lead those efforts. Entering his third season into the program, the Bulldogs’ quarterback has suddenly been forced into becoming more of a teacher. He knows all of the playbook’s ins-and-outs — even with new offensive coordinator James Coley — and doesn’t hesitate to share his knowledge.
Fromm shares information on new lingo, preferred ways to run routes and effective ways to build a strong rapport with the signal caller. With coach contact minimal during the summer months, players can build those bonds during self-conducted meetings and 7-on-7 fashion.
“There are a lot of new guys there. They’re scratching, clawing to be that guy,” Fromm said. “It’s tougher than before. I think those guys are ready to make plays and see what they can do. I’ve been doing extra throwing sessions, spending more time on the grass and meeting with them for extra amounts of time.”
There’s a plan for Georgia. It hopes for preparation to translate into its run-first offense. Easy catches. Creativity. Building two balanced dimensions of offense on Saturdays.
“You can’t win a championship one-dimensionally,” Smart said. “You might not need to have one 900-yard guy, but you need to have two or three 800-yard guys. You have to find a way to disperse the ball and find ways to get them touches.”
After discussion about wide receivers ceased, a reporter mentioned why it became mentioned ad nauseam. There weren’t many other holes, at least in his eyes. Well, confidence comes with other concerns, according to the head coach.
“There are some weaknesses,” Smart said. “Trust me.”