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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Spring look: Wide receiver

By David Ching




To get ready for the March 20 start of Georgia’s spring football practice, DawgNation will do a position breakdown each day. Today we will analyze the wide receivers. Today we look at the tight ends.

2011 starters (stats): Tavarres King, Sr. (47 catches, 705 yards, 8 TD); Malcolm Mitchell, So. (45-665, 4 TD)

Chris Conley
Reserve WR Chris Conley had one of 2011's key catches -- to seal the win against Florida. He faces lofty expectations in 2012, when his contributions will be still more critical.
Key losses: Israel Troupe

Reserves (stats): Michael Bennett, So. (34 catches, 320 yards, 5 TD); Chris Conley, So. (16-288, 2 TD); Marlon Brown, Sr. (15-234, 3 TD); Rhett McGowan, So. (7-84); Rantavious Wooten, Jr. (2-39, 1 TD); Justin Scott-Wesley, Fr. (Redshirted)

New faces: Blake Tibbs signed in February, but has not enrolled at Georgia yet. Otherwise, the only available wideout who did not contribute last season is Scott-Wesley, who redshirted in 2011 and is also competing on Georgia’s track team this spring.
Spring goal: With Mitchell switching to defense full time in the spring -- and figuring to continue in that role for at least the Bulldogs’ first two games until senior cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith return from suspension -- Georgia needs someone else to claim his starting spot and his position as the No. 1 deep threat.

Brown, Conley and Bennett all had big games when Mitchell missed three games with a hamstring injury last season, so this will be more a matter of establishing a pecking order than determining who is capable of producing. Wooten will also re-enter the picture after missing all but three games last year.

Georgia still plans to deploy Mitchell on offense AND defense once its secondary depth returns to normal, so don’t count him out of the offensive picture for the fall. This spring, however, his fellow wideouts will mostly compete against him.

Worth watching: It will be interesting to see who begins filling various roles. King enjoyed the best outing by a receiver in program history by scorching Michigan State for 205 yards in the Outback Bowl. Can he become the dependable No. 1 receiver? Brown’s injuries kept him from having the big season some expected -- save for a 121-yard, two-touchdown performance against Vanderbilt -- so he’s running out of time to live up to his five-star billing out of high school. Where will Wooten and Scott-Wesley fit into the rotation? We shall see.

Area of concern: Injuries hit this group hard a season ago. Brown suffered an injury before the start of the season, preventing the breakout season his coaches and teammates predicted after a strong summer and preseason. Wooten suffered a season-ending concussion in a car crash early in the season. Mitchell sat out with a hamstring injury.

Position coach Tony Ball would certainly like to make it through the spring without having to rely on walk-on reserves at points like he did last fall. Coach Mark Richt already said Conley will be limited in spring work because of injury. Otherwise, it appears the group is in better shape numbers-wise entering the spring -- and the Bulldogs would like to keep it that way.

Position grade: B-plus. This should be a productive bunch again. The Bulldogs spread around the passing yardage last season with five different players -- four of whom return this season, minus tight end Orson Charles -- posting at least one 100-yard outing. That should serve Georgia well again as its top five wideouts are back and will jockey for playing time this spring.