UGA football coach speaks about development of Middle Georgia players
Each summer, a news item may float around and raise questions ahead of Georgia’s upcoming football season. There wouldn’t be a college football offseason without one, and curiosity-drawing developments occur within most programs.
Unfortunately for Georgia, its significant offseason story has potential to be roster-shattering. Ahead of the 2019 season in which the Bulldogs are projected title contenders, wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman was dismissed from the program on June 21 after an alleged incident of aggravated assault and battery.
Holloman entered the summer as the Bulldogs’ top returning receiver with 418 receiving yards and five touchdowns — his highlight coming on the big stage against Florida in Jacksonville.
After spending his freshman season buried in the depth chart, he emerged as the team’s alpha receiver and became a favorable target for quarterback Jake Fromm with an acrobatic pass-catching ability.
Next time Georgia wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton holds a meeting in the bowels of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, the absence of No. 9 may be palpable. Georgia does have a gaudy number of five-star prospects and can flash its recruiting prowess in situations such as this one.
As a return to the field draws closer, here are some factors to consider as Georgia re-shapes its receiver unit.
TIME TO FIGURE IT OUT
Prior to Holloman’s dismissal, Fromm had a steep task lying ahead of him with a wholesale change in pass-catching targets. Those veterans that the Bulldogs’ quarterback came to love — Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley and Isaac Nauta — all became NFL draftees and are making the big bucks. Now, the newness reaches another level of prominence.
Remember when Fromm admitted at the opening of spring practice that preparation might’ve been “boring” at times?
There are plenty of new faces (well, many of whom have been in the program and haven’t yet played): Tommy Bush, Trey Blount, Matt Landers, Lawrence Cager and Willie Erdman to name a few. At the season’s first kick, many of those players could be placed into new roles and will need time to ease into them. Georgia’s schedule allows for that time.
The Bulldogs open the season with contests against Vanderbilt, Arkansas State and Murray State. Those games of lighter contention allow some time for the offense to gain some traction under newly-named offensive coordinator James Coley and a new wave of players on the perimeter. Aside from the Notre Dame contest (fourth week of the season), all of Georgia’s tough in-conference tests come in the season’s latter half.
Even with the loss, Georgia’s vaunted rushing attack should compensate for uncertainty at wide receiver. A backfield trio of James Cook, Brian Herrien and Zamir White gives Georgia’s offense enough reason to click until a cohesive receiver unit is needed against the likes of Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M and maybe Alabama at some point.
A LOT OF TALENT PRESENT
Without Holloman, Georgia’s wide receiver room remains to show potential for production. Some are proven producers. Others haven’t done so yet, but enter the program with a highly-touted recruiting status or have displayed promise on the practice field.
Senior Tyler Simmons emerges as the most obvious target. He scattered a few highlight games throughout his junior campaign and recorded 138 receiving yards and 131 rushing yards. Demetris Robertson likely carries the most anticipation and highest expectations entering 2019 as a former five-star prospect with a blazing element of speed. Robertson opened his Georgia career with a 72-yard touchdown run against Austin Peay and didn’t do much else. That’ll likely change in the upcoming season.
Along with the likes of Landers, Bush and Blount, sophomore Kearis Jackson can be thrown into the group of those in-waiting. This quartet of players saw sporadic action, but didn’t see many statistical results. Blount and Jackson are candidates at slot receiver while Landers and Bush are bigger bodies on the perimeter.
“I’m extremely excited about Kearis’s work ethic,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said to open spring practice on March 23. “He was a guy that was really in the rotation last year and then all of a sudden had a hamstring at camp and it kind of held him back. I’m excited to see what he does. There’s a lot of other wideouts (where) we’re going to find out what they’re about.
Also joining a “by committee” effort, a term that Smart has used to describe the receiver unit on endless occasions, is a trio of newcomers. Five-star George Pickens and four-star Dominick Blaylock come from powerhouse high-school programs and project to be impact SEC receivers. Blaylock, who stated his hopes to make it “big-time” when committing to the program, recorded 1,052 yards and eight receiving touchdowns as a senior at Walton.
Lawrence Cager, a graduate transfer, enters the program from Miami. He recorded 374 yards and six touchdowns as a redshirt junior with the Hurricanes.
With his addition, Georgia’s options remain plentiful and the Bulldogs’ offense could remain high-powered despite the sudden dismissal of Holloman.