ATHENS, Ga. -- When Jonathon Rumph was a high school sophomore, his coaches had a simple philosophy once their offense advanced close to the opponent’s goal line.
“We’d just chunk it up and let him beat whoever was down there with him. We had somebody who could get the ball to him then,” said Abby Bray, who coached Rumph at Brookland-Cayce High School in Cayce, S.C. “We’d be at the 15-, 18-yard line and just throw it to the corner and just legitimately throw it up high and it was no contest. I don’t care who was guarding him, it was no contest.
“That was when he was in 10th grade. I can’t imagine what he’d have been like when he was a senior if we’d have had anybody that could throw the football, but we didn’t.”
Because he simply didn’t have much talent on his roster -- particularly at quarterback -- Bray said he felt compelled to put his best athlete under center during the next two seasons. And he believes today that the decision prevented Rumph from becoming one of the nation’s most sought-after receiver prospects.
The 6-foot-5 wideout simply didn’t get much attention while playing for a losing program and instead wound up at Holmes (Miss.) Community College for the last two seasons.
“When he was in the 10th grade, in my opinion, I knew that if we had anybody that could just alley-oop it to him, he would be the best receiver in this state by far,” Bray said.
Now Rumph is at Georgia, having joined 12 other players who enrolled at the first of January in order to participate in offseason workouts and spring practice. And if Bulldogs coach Mark Richt has his way, Rumph will immediately find a place in Georgia’s receiver rotation this fall.
“He’s an explosive athlete. He’s going to come in and compete for playing time immediately, like we expect [defensive lineman and fellow juco transfer Chris Mayes] to,” Richt said. “When we bring junior college guys in, we really do expect them to compete right away for playing time and Jonathon, he’s a very talented guy. We’re glad we got him.”
Describing Rumph’s athleticism, Bray pointed out that he played point guard on his high school’s basketball team and had such a strong arm that “he could throw the ball from here to maybe over in Alabama somewhere.”
But it was his catching ability that stood out as his greatest attribute, said Bray, who compared him to one of the state’s top receiving prospects over the last several years.
“Now he’s about 6-6 and he has truly tremendous hands. I’m not just saying that,” Bray said. “He’s really got some serious hands. He can catch it one-handed, 9, 10, 11 feet in the air. He’s a home-run kind of guy.
“He reminds me sort of of Alshon Jeffery,” he continued, referring to the former South Carolina star and current Chicago Bear. “Matter of fact, we scrimmaged them when he was a sophomore and he defended Jeffery. Now he was skinnier, but athletically, he was right with Alshon Jeffery when Jeffery was a senior. I’m not trying to painting too big of a picture, but he’s legit.”
Bray said he saw his former pupil after football season ended and was taken aback by the size he had added to his formerly lanky frame, estimating that Rumph’s weight was up to 215 or 220 pounds (UGA lists him at 215).
He predicted that the jump ball will still be an extremely useful way to take advantage of Rumph’s size, hands and athleticism in college once he sharpens his route-running skills. But that’s not all Rumph can do, Bray said, as his heady understanding of the game and competitiveness will make him a tough customer at the SEC level.
“He had a natural leadership instinct about him, he really did,” Bray said. “One thing about him, probably the most positive thing I can say about him in general, is he couldn’t stand to lose. He wanted to win really bad, and not all of them have that.”