Missing out on five-star recruit hurts wide receiver depth
By DAVID HALE
ATHENS, Ga. — The loss of five-star recruit Da’Rick Rogers put a bit of a damper on Georgia’s signing day festivities this week and, perhaps more importantly, it meant the Bulldogs’ depth chart at wide receiver would take a hit going forward.
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Georgia will have just seven scholarship receivers on hand in 2010 -- senior Kris Durham, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, juniors A.J. Green and Israel Troupe, sophomores Marlon Brown, Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten, and true freshman Michael Bennett, who just signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Durham will most certainly be gone in 2011, and there’s a strong chance Green could depart for the NFL a year early as well.
“Depth is definitely an issue at receiver. I would say we don’t have, at this moment, a good number that I feel comfortable having,” head coach Mark Richt said. “Usually during the season you’re probably going to play around six or seven (receivers) and that’s what we have right now, so everybody’s going to get their share. We need to stay healthy at that position.”
Of course, while the Bulldogs may be a tad thin at receiver, the tight end position is overflowing with riches, and that could certainly offset any shortcomings in the passing game, Richt said.
Georgia returns all three of its top tight ends from 2009 — junior Aron White and sophomores Arthur Lynch and Orson Charles — while junior Bruce Figgins is set to return from a shoulder injury that cost him last season.
Richt said he still plans to employ three-receiver sets on occasion, but the diverse skill sets of his tight ends makes them a prime option for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s scheme.
“What you’re looking for in offensive football is a chance to have some mismatches,” Richt said. “We’re blessed with four outstanding tight ends. We certainly have playmakers and good solid depth with guys that can really play that position. I think that takes a little of the burden off the wide receiving corps.”
Back to the basics
In what was no doubt the most unintentional highlight of Georgia’s signing day for fans, the Bulldogs’ normally reclusive offensive line coach, Stacy Searels, was forced to address an inquiry about injured left tackle Trinton Sturdivant during a question-and-answer session with fans.
Searels stepped to the microphone and attempted an answer, but his voice was noticeably hoarse.
“My voice is gone because I was hollering at somebody else this morning,” Searels said, to huge applause from fans.
Truth be told, however, Searels was thrilled to have a scratchy throat, too. It meant he was finally off the recruiting trail — where the shorthanded Georgia staff has spent much of the past two months — and finally back to the business of whipping his players into shape.
“On Monday and Wednesday we had our offseason program,” Searels said. “It’s fun to get off the road, sleep in your own bed, and get back to coaching ball.”
Biding their time
As for those players Searels has been busy motivating of late, the past three seasons have provided a big dose of encouragement as to what the future might have in store.
Georgia landed three offensive line recruits this year — four-star prospect Brent Benedict, burly lineman Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston, who enrolled in January and is already working out with the team.
While it’s unlikely that any of the three will see the field — just as last year’s signing class of Austin Long, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee failed to do — that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Searels said. It means that Georgia’s starters are doing their job, and unlike years past, the younger players are being given an opportunity to develop before being thrown into the fire.
“The first two years (Searels was at Georgia) we started four true freshmen,” he said. “These kids being able to redshirt, get a little bigger, get a little stronger, work in the weight room and develop and not just be thrown into the fire, I think it’s going to make the offensive line even better.”
Thanks for the effort
For six weeks of recruiting, Georgia’s coaching staff consisted of just one full-time defensive coach. That meant keeping a full staff on the road talking to recruits would be a chore for all those involved.
But to avoid being too shorthanded, the Bulldogs activated three of their graduate assistants to head out on the road, too, and when Georgia finally wrapped up recruiting season Wednesday, recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said its successes were due in no small part to the efforts of the graduate assistants.
“They played a very vital role,” Garner said. “I think it was beneficial for them and it was beneficial for us.”
It gave them a chance to get out there on the road and enhance their resume, and I thought they did a nice job when they were out there.”