As they go through their first spring with coach Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech’s wide receivers are seeing differences and changes everywhere.
“We went from triple option, just having two receivers (on the field), now we’ve got five receivers on the field,” Adonicas Sanders said Thursday, following the Yellow Jackets’ fifth practice of the spring.
Having more receivers on the field – three is a more typical number – is only part of the change in the coaching transition from Paul Johnson to Collins and their respective offenses. Different plays, different play variations, different routes.
“It’s a lot more to the playbook than there was before, but it’s cool,” said Malachi Carter, who emerged as the No. 3 receiver last season as a freshman. “We’re loving it.”
The part they might love most is being a part of an offense that incorporates the pass far more than Johnson’s. An 80/20 run/pass ratio was typical with Johnson. For offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, 50/50 is a more likely proportion.
“That was music to my ears, honestly,” Carter said.
The group has added a number of former A-backs, including Nathan Cottrell, Tija’i Whatley and Xavier Gantt. Learning to play as a slot receiver has been a challenge, Cottrell said, such as acquiring the skill of getting in and out of breaks on a route.
“I get frustrated with myself, but (receivers coach Kerry Dixon) is just out there helping, keeping pushing me to get better every day as much as I can,” Cottrell said. “I’m learning as much as I can watching film as much as I can, just getting out there and trying to get as many reps as possible.”
But being in a practice environment where a high volume of repetitions is stressed has helped.
“It’s incredible,” Cottrell said. “It’s a night-and-day difference. Everybody’s getting reps.”
Returning starter Jalen Camp and Carter appear to be out front at wide receiver, although Sanders has made an impression. At slot, Cottrell is getting work with the “A” group. Early-enrollee Ahmarean Brown, who is playing slot receiver, has caught Cottrell’s eye. He called Brown the “fastest dude I’ve ever seen on the field. Absolutely incredible speed. Gets in and out of breaks probably faster than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Not everything has changed, though. Blocking in the run game is still important.
“If you can’t block, you’re not going to play,” Sanders said. “So you’ve got to do more on the field than catch touchdowns.”
But actually catching touchdowns would be a welcome change. Jackets receivers caught a total of four last season. In the ACC last season, 17 wide receivers caught more than four touchdown passes.
“We’re becoming more developed wide receivers when it comes to the pass game,” Carter said. “They’re expecting a lot more, but it’s something that us wide receivers are looking forward to.”
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