Georgia’s in a unique position when it comes to the wide receiver position.
On one hand, the Bulldogs are flushed with receivers in terms of numbers. Seven receivers on scholarship, and another walk-on with game experience, return from last year’s team. But the issue is that outside of receiver Terry Godwin, no one is a truly proven option at the position in terms of consistency.
With Malcolm Mitchell heading to the NFL after using up his eligibility, Reggie Davis becomes the senior leader. Davis, however, dealt with injuries in 2015 and finished the year with 12 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown. The bulk of that — 101 yards and the score — came against Tennessee.
Needless to say, Georgia needs its young receivers to step up into bigger roles in 2016. The passing game was lackluster a season ago, with Georgia failing to record 100 yards through the air in two games (Kentucky, Auburn). A lot of focus will be placed on the freshmen and sophomores to step in and produce, especially with Mitchell moving on to the NFL.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
Godwin returns as the most proven receiving weapon on the outside. As a freshman, he finished second on the team with 35 receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns. Outside of Mitchell (865 yards) and Godwin, no other Georgia receiver totaled 200 yards.
The Bulldogs will need that to change if they’re going to achieve better offensive balance next season.
Spring practice will be a good place to start, especially since the younger wideouts will get a chance to work with all three quarterbacks on the roster — Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Jacob Eason.
Michael Chigbu, Jayson Stanley and Shaquery Wilson are all rising sophomores who should factor into the competition. Chigbu saw his snaps increase down the stretch of the 2015 season, although he came in primarily as an outside run and screen blocker. Chigbu, however, arrived at Georgia with a reputation of being a solid possession receiver who plays faster than expected.
Stanley has good speed at his 6-foot-2, 204-pound frame but didn’t see too many opportunities. Wilson, whom former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer raved about, also didn’t see much playing time. Both of those receivers are seen as players with a lot of potential.
Isaiah McKenzie, the diminutive gadget man, hasn’t shown his ability as a true receiver yet. But after two seasons, McKenzie has been a valuable weapon on special teams and as an extra running threat on end-arounds and reverse plays. If McKenzie can be utilized as a true slot receiver, his value will increase on Georgia’s offense.
Shakenneth Williams, a Macon native, is another intriguing player given his ability to catch most anything thrown his way.
The lone incoming freshman receiver who will get spring practice experience is Riley Ridley, who committed to Georgia in December and enrolled early. Ridley, the younger brother of Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley, has good size at 6-2 and 195 pounds and showed off some great speed at the high school level.
Two receivers who won’t be with Georgia during the spring are incoming freshmen Tyler Simmons and Javon Wims. Wims, 6-4 and 220 pounds, is seen as someone who can play right away given that he has had junior college experience. Simmons, 6-0 and 194 pounds, was a playmaker at McEachern who local analysts believe was underrated, especially considering both Georgia and Alabama wanted him.
Potential is the key word for the majority of Georgia’s receivers. But inexperience would be the second term to best describe this group as a whole.
Head coach Kirby Smart believes he has some talented players but admitted he would like to have more home-run threats at the position.
“We’ve got some big guys,” Smart said. “I would like to have some more speed there, some vertical threat guys. We got really good size there, we got really good experience there. We’ve got to do a good job getting the ball to them and finding different ways to use those guys.”