Kirby Smart says young receivers have ‘got to grow up’ amid depth concerns

Once Georgia lost eventual second-round draft pick George Pickens and former leading wide receiver Jermaine Burtonit became apparent the Bulldogs would need their younger wide receivers to step up significantly in 2022. Georgia’s depth at the position has only become more of a concern in fall camp, leading head coach Kirby Smart to challenge those underclassmen to rise to the occasion.

Smart spoke about Georgia’s young wide receivers Saturday following the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage of fall camp and the ninth of 25 practices for the team. While Smart credited a number of Georgia’s receivers for making plays in Saturday’s scrimmage, he noted when speaking about true freshman Dillon Bell that players as inexperienced as Bell will have no choice but to contribute in some capacity.

“He’s working his way into the rotation by necessity. We don’t have the depth at the position,” Smart said. “I don’t think, across the country, you see four senior wideouts. Show me where you’ve got four senior wideouts. Show me where you’ve got two seniors and two juniors. Wideouts are very similar: if they don’t get the ball, they’re gone. So, you constantly have young players, or if they’re really good, they’re going to the draft. That’s where one of our juniors [Pickens] ice.

“Everything is kind of cyclical, and right now at wideout we don’t have great depth and we have a couple injuries, so those young guys are getting thrust out there. They’ve got to grow up. We’ve done it before. We’ve had productive freshman wide receivers.”

Georgia’s questions at wide receiver grew a bit more concerning earlier this week when the sophomore Arian Smith suffered an ankle injury, which Smart said Saturday was not a break but will require surgery. Smart also noted true freshman wide receiver De’Nylon Morrissette is dealing with a hyperextended knee that he suffered prior to the start of fall camp.

As far as Georgia’s underclassmen are concerned, the Bulldogs have four sophomore receivers on scholarship: Smith, Adonai Mitchell, Load McConkeyduck Jackson Meeks. There are four true freshman receivers: Bell, Morrissette, CJ Smith spirit Cole Speer.

The more experienced options at the position are senior Kearis Jackson and juniors Dominick Blaylock spirit Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.

Smart’s comments about freshman receivers being productive is an accurate one. Last season, McConkey — a redshirt freshman — and Mitchell combined for 60 catches for 873 yards and 9 touchdowns, and Mitchell had a crucial 40-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff national title game. Burton had 27 receptions for 404 yards and 3 touchdowns even in a COVID-affected 2020 season, and Pickens was Georgia’s leading receiver with 49 receptions for 727 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2019.

When asked about Saturday’s scrimmage, Smart commended the work of several of Georgia’s receivers. He credited Bell with making some plays as well as Meeks, and while Oscar Delp is a tight end, Smart said he made plays and is a receiving weapon. Additionally, Smart credited Rosemy-Jacksaint for doing a good job before adding that Mitchell made a few plays as well.

We are going to have to be really good at the perimeter to be explosive. We have our tight ends, but we have to be good outside to compliment the tight ends,” Smart said. “We need to get De’Nylon back, and we need to get Dillon Bell rolling to get where we need to get at wideout.”

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