ATHENS - All offseason, people around the Georgia football program have been predicting a breakout season for receiver Justin Scott-Wesley. Even offensive coordinator Mike Bobo used that term at one point. And it seems an obvious leap, given that the speedy wideout had his best game in the last one, the Capital One Bowl.
But here's the thing: When you play on a team that still has Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, not to mention Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome, can anybody else really have a breakout season?
Scott-Wesley got that question, thought for a second, and smiled.
"I don't know, what's your definition of a breakout season?" he said."I mean, just getting on the field making plays would be a breakout season for me, compared to what I was doing a year ago, or even two years ago."
That's very true: Last year he caught all of six passes, the first three came in garbage time against Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern. But the other three came against Nebraska in the bowl, including a nifty over-the-shoulder catch on third down. It was a big play for Georgia in that victory, and a big play for Scott-Wesley's confidence going forward.
"Huge game. Lot of big confidence-booster," said Mitchell, who has acted as a bit of a mentor to Scott-Wesley, despite being from the same recruiting class.
That bowl game wasn't all perfect for Scott-Wesley: He infamously couldn't cover a blocked punt in the end zone, and it went out the back for a safety. Somehow, the receiver couldn't wrap up a loose football with nobody around him.
"We're not gonna let him live it down. Ever," Mitchell said. "No matter how far he goes in life I will not let him live that down. That was by far the worst I've ever seen anyone try to recover."
Scott-Wesley and his teammates can laugh about it because of the game turned out, both for the Bulldogs and Scott-Wesley. It was a long wait for the Camilla native, who has been renowned as one of the team's fastest players - he runs track for Georgia - but was always buried on the depth chart. That's why he redshirted his first year, then hardly played in 2012.
"Coming in, I knew I was raw," he said. "Coming from high school, I knew I had a lot to learn. And I just embraced it."
But he doesn't deny it was frustrating. Even as he improved in practice, there wasn't much he could do to squeeze into games with all the talent ahead of him.
That made the catches against Nebraska so important for Scott-Wesley: Not only was it a good springboard to this season, but they showed good route-running and catching ability, rather than just pure speed.
"Every time I talk to Justin I just tell him this is no different than anything you've been doing all your life," Mitchell said. "Justin had a breakout game against Nebraska. Justin had been making plays all camp, all practice. I believe he's ready, and he'll show it."
Freshman tailback A.J. Turman (knee and ankle sprain) returned to practice, but in a limited capacity. Turman had missed the better part of the past two weeks. Brendan Douglas, another freshman tailback, remained out with a knee sprain. The two injuries have cemented freshman J.J. Green's status as the third tailback, after Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Backup fullback Merritt Hall was also practicing in a limited capacity because of a neck strain.
Backup receivers Rhett McGowan (ankle sprain) Jonathan Rumph (hamstring) and Tramel Terry (knee bruise) were all limited in practice.
Outside linebacker Chase Vasser (ankle sprain) returned to practice after missing most of the past couple weeks. Vasser was also limited.
Right guard Chris Burnette was absent from the media viewing period on Monday, but he and Richt said everything was fine. The senior has been held out of some preseason practices, as the team eased him back after shoulder surgery.