- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- After sitting out his first season in college, Blake Tibbs can easily recall the receiver who arrived at Georgia a few months ago and point out what he was doing wrong.
“In high school, I got away with a lot of things. When I got up here and I tried to do them things I did in high school, the DBs were all over me,” laughed Tibbs, a redshirting freshman who starred at Martin Luther King High School in Lithonia, Ga. “Really, you’ve got to tighten up your form and your technique. And when you do that, Coach [Tony] Ball teaches you technique and if you use it, if they don’t throw you the ball, at least you’re going to be open.”
Because of the loaded depth chart when he arrived on campus -- seniors Tavarres King and Marlon Brown led the receivers, with sophomores Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Conley already having gained considerable experience in 2011 -- Tibbs was a strong candidate to redshirt from the get-go. He admittedly was unhappy with that status at the beginning of the season, but said he came to realize it was beneficial as time progressed.
“In the beginning, nobody wants to be redshirted. So I would say probably the first two or three weeks, I was kind of upset,” Tibbs said. “But I kind of saw what a redshirt did and that you get to learn more and just get to bring it all in and get your feet up under you in school and all around.
“You get to get settled in and stuff. I’m kind of excited now because it’s one more game until my season comes. There’s no reason for me not to be excited. There’s one more game and it’s my time to shine.”
Certainly that is the kind of attitude that receivers coach Ball wants to see from Tibbs, but it’s evident that the sunny perspective was not in place all season long.
A demanding position coach, Ball said he hopes Tibbs uses the lessons from his redshirt season to become a mature player now that his true opportunity to earn playing time has nearly arrived.
“He had to develop some patience,” Ball said. “He was disappointed in the fact that he was redshirted and probably didn’t understand why, but that was a part of the growing process. Hopefully it gave him an opportunity to evaluate who he was and how he has approached being here at Georgia, coming from high school and being on his own. Hopefully he had a chance to evaluate that and assess that and grow from that.”
The word in recruiting circles when Tibbs committed to Georgia was that the Bulldogs had themselves a steal in a receiver prospect who didn’t have an armload of offers from big programs. By the time he exploded onto the recruiting scene with some huge games at MLK last fall, he was already a Georgia commit and he stuck by that pledge.
King -- whom Tibbs backed up in team passing drills this fall -- and Brown will be out of the picture once the Bulldogs wrap up the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day. While Mitchell, Conley and Bennett will remain, teammates say he has the potential to work his way up the depth chart in short order.
“Blake Tibbs is going to be a really good player,” Mitchell said. “I think he can be really good. He’s just got to learn what to do.”
Asked to imagine what 2013 might be like for him, Tibbs said he expects big things.
Of course, confidence was never Tibbs' problem. This is the same player who asked for jersey No. 8 just a year after its more famous occupant, A.J. Green, had left Athens to become a first-round NFL draft pick.
“I always envision the best, so I think it’s going to be my breakout year,” Tibbs said. “Even if it’s not a breakout year, it’s at least a year to get me noticed in some kind of way. I want to be consistent in making big plays or even the plays I’m just supposed to make -- the plays that get us a first down, critical plays.
“I look at my 2013 season as me being a big playmaker for the team, somebody to depend on if we need a first down. If it’s third-and-5 and we need a first down, I hope the coaches say, ‘Let’s throw the ball to Blake.’ I want to be that person to depend on in 2013.”
Tibbs was also a star kick returner at MLK and he said he would be happy if Ball, who also coaches the return men, wants to give him an opportunity on special teams. But his main goal -- and Ball’s objective for Tibbs -- is to approach his opportunity with focus and consistency that were sometimes lacking as he adjusted to the demanding grind of playing receiver in college.
“Obviously not being thrown into a game week-to-week preparation situation has also given him an opportunity to see from afar what it takes week to week to week, the grind of preparing,” Ball said. “Hopefully he’s had a chance to see that and he’ll take this experience and be looking forward to attacking it every week and appreciating the opportunity to participate week after week. That’s what I’m hoping.”
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