ATHENS, Ga. — For two years, Israel Troupe has toiled in the shadows.
He arrived at Georgia with an impressive resume, ranked as the top wide receiver recruit in the state coming out of high school, but there was always someone ahead of him the depth chart. As a result, he hauled in just four catches in two years.
That should change this year. At least that’s what coaches Mike Bobo and Tony Ball have told Troupe.
“After talking with (them), they told me they’re going to be depending on me a lot to step up and get the job done,” Troupe said. “The main thing is to go in with a positive attitude and just try to contribute as much as I can.”
Troupe isn’t alone. When it comes to the receiving corps for Georgia this year, a lot will be riding on a talented group of players who have yet to prove much at the college level.
With the departure of three seniors from last year’s squad, a season-ending injury to senior Kris Durham and the dismissal of junior Tony Wilson, the Bulldogs are left with just six scholarship receivers, and only two with more career catches than Troupe’s four.
“Everybody’s going to have to step up this year,” said quarterback Joe Cox, who takes over the reins of the offense without star running back Knowshon Moreno or leading pass-catcher Mohamed Massaquoi. “With six guys, you never know what can happen, and you’ve got to have everybody ready to play.”
A.J. Green returns from a stellar rookie season to lead the group, while Michael Moore serves as the senior leader among the receivers. Beyond that, however, nothing is certain other than the knowledge that everyone will get his chance.
Green has been cross training between split end and flanker, while Moore has settled into the slot receiver position, but the depth chart behind them is wide open.
Troupe and redshirt freshman Tavarres King are the only two players with any experience, and both figure to be heavily relied upon, particularly in the early going.
“After being here for two years, I know the playbook, and I think this year is my time to step up and make a name for myself,” Troupe said.
Behind them are two freshmen receivers who arrive amid lofty expectations.
Moore has worked closely with Rantavious Wooten and said the freshman already is among the team’s best route runners, just four weeks into his career. But Wooten is undersized at just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds.
Freshman Marlon Brown fits the bill of the prototypical receiver a bit more, with a lanky frame and an impressive track record in high school. He has already drawn comparisons to Green.
For all four young receivers, this season represents their best shot at success, but also comes with a hefty dose of pressure.
“We’re viewing it as an opportunity,” King said. “Everybody’s eyes are wide open for this thing. There are two young guys trying to learn as much as they can and just taking it one step at a time, but it’s going to be exciting.”
Last season, 18 different players caught passes for Georgia, but 55 percent of those receptions won’t be on the active roster this year.
While that means it will be sink or swim for all six of the receivers on this season’s roster — and Troupe thinks a few of the walk-ons will see some action, too — the motivation for the group will be less about garnering an opportunity and more about ensuring they do something with it.
“Everybody’s still competing, even A.J,” Moore said. “Everybody’s going to want the ball, and we’re trying to compete right now so when coaches come out for practice and perform for them, because if they have confidence in you, the ball is going to come your way.”