Tony Ball has a bit of a tough charge over the next month: Figure out the rookies and unproven veterans ready to replace two players now in the NFL - and oh by the way, figure that out in time for a matchup with a top 10 team on Sept. 3.
Ball, the receivers coach at Georgia, at least has something to work with: A group of big, athletic freshmen that he hopes can push veterans like Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten, who have yet to reach their potential.
"That's why you recruit those guys, because you feel like they can bring something different to the group, that they can create competition within the group," Ball said on Tuesday morning, two days before the official start of practice. "And then obviously you're really banking on, or hoping, that the Marlon Browns and the Rantavious Wootens, that the light will come on and say, 'Hey it's my time.' And even Tavarres King: Tavarres King has been productive and has some talent. But he hasn't really truly tapped into his fullest potential. He hasn't yet."
A.J. Green and Kris Durham won't be replaced easily, but the Bulldogs have to try. Ideally, Ball would like to have about six-to-eight receivers to rotate into the game. Not that he won't play all 12 scholarship receivers if they deserve it.
So here's a look at where the receivers stand, along with the tight ends, as the preseason begins:
The battle: Brown, the 6-foot-5 junior, begins No. 1 on the depth chart, but freshman Malcolm Mitchell will give him a big push. Michael Bennett, a redshirt freshman, will also be a factor. Then there's senior Israel Troupe and the other freshmen: Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Sanford Seay. Those three, along with Mitchell, are being worked at both receiver positions.
The skinny: Mitchell (6-1) isn't as tall as Brown, but his speed and ability have drawn raves from teammates this summer. Ball said he's really impressed with Mitchell's ability, intelligence and confidence.
"He seems very comfortable with being here, being away from home," Ball said. "He seems to have made that transition, which is the first thing that has to happen. You don't really know how quickly someone will come into their own and perform the way you hope they will, or the way you saw them perform when they were in high school, until they make that transition. And he seems to have done that. ...
"And as far as his playing time, or how quickly you get him in the rotation, I think that's going to be a day-to-day process."
Brown - who caught 11 passes, including one touchdown, last year - will have a chance to step into a bigger role. He had a decent spring, but not good enough that his hold on a starting spot is anywhere near secure.
"He's got to get better. He's got to push himself fundamentally," Ball said. "And if he does that, he'll take that next step."
Bennett redshirted last year as a freshman, but he was close enough to playing that he traveled to pretty much all the games.