Brendan Langley’s sophomore season won’t look anything like his freshman one.
One of the more curious personnel adjustments in a Georgia offseason filled with change was the decision to switch Langley from cornerback to wide receiver. In his freshman season, he earned the starting spot, lost it after the first four games and then struggled to find playing time altogether. The flak he caught from fans and media surely didn’t help.
When new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt arrived, the coaching staff opted to shift Langley to the offensive side of the ball.
“After Jeremy worked with him, running 40s and all that kind of stuff, seeing the skill set on that side of ball, we felt like, as a staff, that he might be better suited as a receiver, just a more natural position for him to play,” head coach Mark Richt said, “With his speed, agility, good ball skills -- he’s got to learn what to do obviously -- we think he can really help us there.”
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Langley played both ways in high school at Kell in Marietta. Most recruiting services listed him as an athlete, not purely a cornerback. He had offers from virtually everywhere, and no schools were willing to predetermine what side of the ball he’d play. This is someone who even considered playing basketball at Georgia, so his innate athletic ability is no secret.
Cornerback Damian Swann, who spent last season working with Langley in the secondary, expects Langley’s recent experience at receiver to help him recalibrate to the position.
“Langley is a guy that played both ways in high school. Being just six months out of high school, you still have some of that kind of left in you,” Swann said. “But a guy like me, I’ve been playing defense for four years now, so it’ll be easier for him because not too long ago he was just doing that.”
That’s not to say the transition, however, will be free of frustration. In high school, Langley served an all-purpose role on offense, getting involved in both the passing and rushing games. His athletic ability supports the possibility of that happening for Georgia, as well, but not without some of the preparation woes that come with the change.
He has been scratched from both of his potential media sessions, but Richt hinted that Langley might be experiencing some of that irritation already in his new role.
“I talked to Brendan (Friday) and just told him to be patient,” Richt said. “A player can’t all of the sudden pop in and play that role. He has to be willing to put in his time.”
His biggest obstacle might not be his own learning curve, rather the depth at the receiver position, perhaps the greatest oddity of the switch. Langley left a secondary that lacked personnel, only to join a receiving corps that is one of the deepest groups on the team.
With Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley’s availability in doubt, however, Langley has been getting plenty of reps in practice as coaches continue to search for who can fill those voids, if necessary. He has earned in-practice verbal approval on his route running from wide receivers coach Tony Ball on more than one occasion during preseason practice.
Fellow wide receiver Chris Conley sees the potential in the corner-turned-receiver but encourages him to take his time adjusting.
“Langley is an extremely athletic, extremely explosive guy. It really comes down to learn the fundamentals of what a receiver is, of how to run like a receiver, how to recognize coverage,” Conley said. “Although he knows defenses, it’s different when you’re on the other side of the ball. Now it’s really about the learning curve for him and how to do that and be patient. Once he learns how to do those things, everything else will take care of itself.”
Ultimately, however, he expects Langley to earn his way into the rotation.
“He’ll be able to get into it. But it really comes down to him and how he wants to approach it,” Conley said, adding a touch of advice. “If he approaches things from an extremely focused mindset, he’ll do a lot better than if he’s trying to force things and cram it in.