Monday, September 30, 2013
Receiver by committee is working for UGA
By Edward Aschoff
ATHENS, Ga. -- When asked about Georgia's receiving corps following the Bulldogs' 44-41 shootout win over LSU on Saturday, redshirt sophomore receiver Justin Scott-Wesley didn't hesitate with his confident answer.
"Oh man, I think we have the best receiving corps in the nation," said Scott-Wesley, who caught four passes, including the game-winning 25-yard touchdown in Saturday's game. "You can quote me on that. Other [teams] might have one big standout guy, but when it comes to consistent guys, we have five or six guys we can put in and just keep rolling."
Georgia wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley had five catches for 55 yards and the game-winning touchdown on Saturday.
Anyone watching Saturday's score-fest might have a hard time arguing against Scott-Wesley. Against LSU, the Bulldogs had nine different players catch at least one pass. Four of them hauled in multiple receptions.
"We kept talking at halftime saying, 'Hey, your number is gonna be called, pick up the phone and answer it,' and I thought the guys did," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
After star wide out Malcolm Mitchell went out with a season-ending ACL injury in the season opener, questions arose concerning who would be the guy out wide. Was a veteran like Chris Conley or Michael Bennett up for the job? How about an up-and-comer like Scott-Wesley? Or could tight end Arthur Lynch play the part?
The answer ended up being "yes" to all three. Through four games, those four players have reached double-digit receptions and have combined for 874 yards and eight touchdowns on 53 catches. The Bulldogs have had a different player lead the team in receiving in all four games and have had three players or more catch three or more catches in each game.
Scott-Wesley leads Georgia with 289 receiving yards, while Conley has a team-high 15 receptions. Add running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, along with speedy freshman Reggie Davis and tight end Jay Rome, and quarterback Aaron Murray's job has been made easy through the first quarter of the season.
"Murray's blessed in that he has a lot of guys who can make plays," coach Mark Richt said.
Not having that No. 1, go-to guy hasn't hindered this offense. Murray fell under 300 yards passing for the first time this year in the win over LSU. And even then, he threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns. His receivers succeeded against man coverage and succeeded against zone. They were precise in their route running and made sure-handed plays in critical situations.
Having one player to chuck it to on a regular basis is nice, but Richt said it's been nice for Murray to have multiple players to consistently rely on. It takes the pressure off constantly trying to find a main set of hands in crunch time.
"It's fun as a coordinator, it's fun as a quarterback to throw the ball to the guy based on the coverage, based on his read and not when you're trying to force it to one guy who might be double-covered because you feel like an idiot if you don't get A.J. Green the ball six times a game," Richt said. "You find yourself forcing the ball and you find yourself trying to figure out ways to get one guy one."
Murray isn't forcing the ball and the Bulldogs' offense is clicking right along. Murray knows he has multiple targets to work with, and he considers them all No. 1-type players.
"They've been awesome," Murray said of his receivers. "We knew that was going to be one of our biggest strengths offensively."
"You could say that any of those guys could be No. 1's at schools. It's a pleasure. They're really a hardworking group and all camp, all year, we really grind to be perfect in what we do. A lot, a lot of talent at that position."