Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Spring cleaning: Rantavious Wooten
By David Ching
Editor's note: This week we continue to clean out our notebook from Georgia's spring practices to tell the stories we didn't get to tell before the Bulldogs' G-Day game. Previously we featured fullback Quayvon Hicks, tight end Jay Rome, defensive end Ray Drew and safety Connor Norman. Today we recap a conversation with senior receiver Rantavious Wooten.
ATHENS, Ga. -- As the old man in Georgia’s receiving corps, Rantavious Wooten has developed the guile that accompanies on-field experience.
While he hopes to contribute in measurable ways this fall -- catches, receiving yards, touchdowns -- the fifth-year senior believes his intangible qualities will benefit the Bulldogs.
Rantavious Wooten expects to carry a bigger load this season, both on the field and in the locker room.
“In the position I’m in, I know a lot of things, and I tell the freshman DBs and wide receivers, ‘I can teach you a lot. I’ve been here, done that and been in the situations. I know a lot,’ ” Wooten said. “That’s my biggest advantage is that I know a lot -- not even about ability, but my mindset in knowing what to do in a situation and knowing how to get yourself out of situations if it comes around.”
Wooten’s best college season actually was his true freshman year in 2009, when he totaled 197 receiving yards and caught a career-high two touchdown passes against Kentucky. There were ups and downs since then, including a medical redshirt in 2011 when he suffered a serious concussion in a car wreck early in the season, but he bounced back to rank seventh on the team with 187 receiving yards last fall.
Such experiences helped the 23-year-old wideout mature through the years, molding a more team-oriented player from the brash freshman who arrived on campus in 2009.
“My whole mindset is just different about the game,” Wooten said. “... I think that’s the biggest turnaround for me is that I’m willing to go the extra mile. If it’s a run play, don’t just get in the way. Finish the block and let Todd [Gurley] or Keith [Marshall] or whoever’s running the ball get to the end zone. That’s my mindset, my job is to get my man to the end zone. Don’t let my man make the tackle, and that’s pretty much the biggest difference from when I first came in up until now.”
With 34 catches for 464 yards and six touchdowns in his career, Wooten typically has played an active but supporting role in Georgia’s passing game. The Bulldogs lose productive veterans in Tavarres King and Marlon Brown this fall, but will return three top options in Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.
Wooten certainly will figure into the rotation, as well, and will provide versatility in what he believes is a well-rounded receiving corps.
“I feel like it’s the perfect group,” he said. “We have everything we need to have a complete arsenal at the receiver position. I feel like we have speed, we have quickness, we have a deep threat, we have intermediate game, we have somebody that can go across the middle, go up and get it. We have somebody that can catch the short ball and take it long. So I feel like we’re a complete set of wide receivers.”
It’s also a group that will grow larger in the next few weeks. The Bulldogs signed five receivers -- including two, Tramel Terry and junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph, who enrolled in January -- to alleviate some of the depth concerns that developed when the receiving corps struggled with injuries at points in the last two seasons.
The additional bodies will help in that regard, Wooten said, as will a change in philosophy. The receivers who didn’t already know how to play multiple wideout positions began learning the other spots this spring -- and that not only will help address the depth issues, it will make it more difficult for opponents to plan for how to defend the various Georgia receivers.
“I was here when it was like, one guy went down, and it was kind of sketchy, because there weren’t that many bodies to throw around the position,” Wooten said. “So that’s another thing we’re doing this year. Everybody’s learning every position. Instead of being tuned in to just one position, we’re learning everything, so you can play here, here or there.”