UGA receivers' strength is their depth
Luckily for Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and quarterback Aaron Murray -- who are entrusted with distributing the ball among a deep group of receivers -- it’s quite the opposite. And that pays off, as opposing defenses are unable to focus their attention solely on one or two top wideouts.
Bennett serves as an excellent example of the selfless attitude that prevails among those at his position. He posted a career-best 110 receiving yards on four catches against Florida Atlantic, but had only two grabs for 10 yards Saturday against Vanderbilt, when senior Marlon Brown (5-114) became the centerpiece of the passing game.
And Bennett was perfectly pleased with that turn of events.
“We don’t have any guys over here saying, ‘I want more balls,’ getting ticked because the ball’s not thrown to them,” Bennett said. “If one guy has a great game like Marlon, I couldn’t be happier for him right now because he has battled injury after injury and now he’s having this great year and I’m so happy for him.
“If he’s going to have a great game and me or [Tavarres King] aren’t getting as many balls, that’s fine with us. We’re just really here to get the win and if one guy shows out one game and one guy doesn’t, that’s fine.”
That attitude has worked well thus far as Bennett, Brown and King have produced highly similar numbers. Bennett has a team-high 275 receiving yards on 19 catches, followed closely by King’s 269 yards on 14 catches and Brown’s 16 grabs for 264 -- and each of them has at least one 100-yard game so far this season.
The group is also putting together one of the most impressive runs of receiving consistency in Mark Richt’s tenure. The Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 SEC) have had a 100-yard receiver in all four games thus far entering this weekend's game against Tennessee (3-1, 0-1). That's the longest such streak since 2001, when the Bulldogs had a 100-yard receiver in six straight games in Richt’s debut season as head coach.
“It definitely makes my job a lot easier to know I have targets everywhere,” Murray said. “I can throw it to either side of the field and they’re not only going to catch it, but they’re making plays after the catch.”
Georgia’s streak of consecutive 100-yard games actually sits at five, taking into account King’s 205-yard effort last season in the Outback Bowl that set a UGA single-game record. And stretching further into last season’s results, the Bulldogs have had two more receivers post 100-yard outings -- Chris Conley had 126 yards last year against New Mexico State and Malcolm Mitchell had 126 against Tennessee -- giving Georgia eight 100-yard performances in the last 13 games by five different players.
“Around here at Georgia for the past two years, we’ve been having depth at receiver. That’s a good thing for everybody,” said Brown, who contributed three of those 100-yard games.
The number of explosive playmakers at Murray’s disposal will grow this week, with Mitchell returning to a more active role on offense after spending the vast majority of the first four games at cornerback. And King showed off more of the unselfish vibe that exists within the receiving corps on Tuesday by saying that any of them would be willing to sacrifice a play here and there to give Mitchell a chance to make an impact.
“That’s just another weapon,” King said. “That’s just another smooth weapon we’ve got in our arsenal. So it’s scary what we can do out wide.”
Georgia’s veteran wideouts no doubt learned about sharing while playing second fiddle to eventual first-round NFL pick A.J. Green, who never displayed the diva tendencies that plague many star receivers. But none among this group of Bulldogs carries Green’s next-big-thing pedigree, which helps keep everyone’s ego in check -- and reminds them to share credit with teammates who contributed to their standout performances.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities that we’re getting to make plays outside,” King said. “That’s due to what’s going on in the running game and how the offensive line is protecting Aaron and things of that sort. It’s a team effort. Every time we go for 100 or 20, it’s a team effort, but it’s very exciting to put those numbers up as a unit. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Make no mistake about the group’s capabilities, however. The Bulldogs’ receivers might not be superstars in training like Green was at UGA between 2008 and 2010, but it’s pointless for a defense to focus solely on shutting down Brown when King has already flashed skills that will make him a likely NFL pick after this season. And it’s short-sighted to try only to take away the bomb to Mitchell when it leaves Bennett alone to find holes in a coverage scheme.
Georgia’s strength is in its depth -- Murray said the receivers are “probably the best group on our whole entire team” -- and that will make life difficult for even the best secondaries the Bulldogs will face down the stretch.
“The good thing about that is I feel like everybody knows what’s going on,” King said. “Everybody’s mature and it’s awesome to see a group of receivers that care about each other and the team and being the best that they can be all at the same time. It’s a cool deal.”
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