Commentary

Injuries open door for WR Conley

Notebook: True freshman wins over coaches with hard work, willingness to help

Updated: October 13, 2011, 11:22 AM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Conley was on track to redshirt this season, but the true freshman receiver has made the most of an opportunity that arose when veterans Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten went down with injuries.

Conley made his debut against Ole Miss and impressed his coaches enough to earn increased playing time.

[+] EnlargeChris Conley
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.com True freshman Chris Conley stepped into the lineup and had a key 17-yard reception at Tennessee.
"I'm very pleased with Conley," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We weren't planning on playing him, but with the injuries to Marlon and Wooten, we felt like we better play him. He knew there was a possibility those two guys could come back and he'd be fighting for playing time.

"The kid is a great kid, a hard worker, and he wanted just a chance to compete, and he didn't care if his reps went down when they came back. He thought he could come in and produce, and he's done that."

Although he enrolled in January and participated in spring practice, Conley said he never knew whether he would play this season. He didn't appear in the first three games but was still practicing with the varsity offense and hoped to contribute at some point.

"It was the kind of thing where the coaches were like, 'We're going to keep evaluating you. Keep developing, keep practicing and be ready for any moment,' " Conley said. "I wasn't on scout team. I was still running with the offense in practice, still getting reps with the first and second team, so as of that point, it was really up in the air."

When Wooten sustained a concussion the week of the Ole Miss game, Conley received his first on-field action. In the last two games, he has made two catches for 25 yards -- including a 17-yard grab last week against Tennessee that helped extend a lengthy second-half drive -- and is proving himself a capable substitute for the veterans.

"He's doing a great job of getting open and gaining my trust and the coaches' trust, too, of getting more snaps in the games," quarterback Aaron Murray said.

QB killers

Murray said Tuesday that he's glad his defensive teammates aren't allowed to hit him in practice. They haven't shown much respect for quarterbacks lately.

Tennessee's Tyler Bray -- who is out for six weeks after fracturing his thumb against Georgia last weekend -- is the most recent quarterback to leave a game against the Bulldogs because of injury or ineffective play, after Ole Miss' and Mississippi State's starting quarterbacks also took a beating at the Bulldogs' hands.

"Last year there were times where we put 30 points on the board, and you expect to win a game when you put 30 or more, and they just weren't doing everything they needed to," Murray said. "I think this year that they know what they're doing, they're having fun, they're making plays, and they're spectacular. Even in practice, we're like, 'Man, these guys are good.' I'm just glad they can't hit us because they're on a streak of killing quarterbacks."

Rome to play hoops?

True freshman tight end Jay Rome said this week that he wants to join Georgia's basketball team once football season concludes -- and football coach Mark Richt said Wednesday that he is not necessarily opposed to the idea.

"He might," Richt said. "I think he wants to. I don't think today's the day. (Basketball coach Mark) Fox and I are going to look at when we think is the best time. His first obligation is to football, but somewhere along the way, Coach and I will figure out when the best time for him to start is. And if he continues to do well in school like he is right now, he'll get the opportunity to do that."

Rome's fellow freshman Nick Marshall previously expressed a desire to play both sports and received a similar conditional acceptance from Richt.

Rome, a 6-foot-6, 254-pound power forward whose father, Stan, played football and basketball at Clemson, was ESPN.com's No. 19 basketball prospect in the state of Georgia in 2011.

Extra points

Richt said nose guard John Jenkins, who harbored hopes of playing some offense when he signed with Georgia, hasn't broached the subject in a while: "Pretty early on he said, 'You know Coach, I think I just need to work on nose guard right now,' but when he gets really comfortable, he'll be back I'm sure," Richt said with a laugh. ... Richt said the team enjoyed an injury-free week of practice leading up to Thursday's walk-through. ... Georgia's first shutout under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham came in last year's 43-0 win against Vanderbilt. ... The official kickoff time for Saturday's game at Vanderbilt will be 7:08 p.m. ET.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.