Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Lawrence Cager (15) appeared to make a dramatic catch for a first down in the second quarter, defended by Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Alontae Taylor (2), but on review it was ruled incomplete during todays UGA vs Tennessee NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/robert.andres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/robert.andres@ajc.com

Georgia WR Lawrence Cager not just a ‘go-to guy’

“Play-maker” is much more suitable to the Bulldogs’ wide receiver.

What is inarguable about the first-year transfer from Miami is that he is Georgia’s leading pass catcher heading into Saturday’s game against South Carolina (ESPN, noon p.m.). The 6-foot-5, 220-pound graduate out of Towson, Md., has 15 catches for 197 yards and three touchdowns through his first five games with the Bulldogs.

Cager had five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 43-14 win over Tennessee. Two of his catches came in the final 1:59 of the first half — one for a touchdown, another setting up a TD – as the Bulldogs’ scored twice to take a two-score lead into the locker room.

Cager disagreed when asked after the game if he felt like he had developed into quarterback Jake Fromm’s go-to guy.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Cager said. “Whenever the ball comes to me, whether it’s a good ball or a bad ball, I just try to make a play. I don’t think I’m a go-to guy. We have a bunch of guys we can go to. I just try to make the best of my opportunities when they come my way.”

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Cager developed that reputation at Miami. The ball didn’t come his way often there, but it came his way enough for him to score 10 touchdowns. He caught only 45 passes in three seasons with the Hurricanes, meaning his scoring ratio was 22 percent.

Cager is scoring at the same rate with the Bulldogs, but he’s also catching more balls. It’s not unreasonable to project him catching more in this one season at UGA than his career at Miami. Some extra games after the regular season could help ensure that.

Three of Cager’s catches against Tennessee were particularly impressive, and one didn’t count. He dove to haul in a sideline pass for 21 yards to set up Georgia’s third touchdown. That came roughly one minute after snagging Fromm’s low fast ball just behind the goal-line pylon for a three-yard touchdown.

In the first quarter, Cager appeared to have another touchdown on a 50-50 fade ball. But Cager was flagged for offensive pass interference on the 25-yard pass. It appeared he had the defender’s jersey before leaping up for the catch, though there was a lot of contact by both players before the ball arrived.

“It’s a matter of coming out and showing it in real clutch situations,” Fromm said of Cager. “I trust him a lot. He came in mature, but he’s really grown a lot football-wise, going up and making plays. He’s doing a great job filling a role in our offense.”

Cager and Fromm have developed a chemistry. That’s no accident. They spent considerable time building it over the summer.

“That’s what receivers and quarterbacks do,” Cager said. “That’s what preseason camp and summers are for. Me and Jake have been building our relationship, especially a new guy coming into the program. I feel like we’ve got chemistry, but there’s chemistry with all the receivers. We’re just lucky to have such a great QB leading our team.”

It’s clear listening to Georgia coach Kirby Smart that Cager is merely parroting his coach when he downplays the go-to characterization.

“I think Jake has confidence in all our wideouts,” Smart said. “Jake spreads the wealth. … We’ve got a lot of guys who catch the ball that are hard to tackle. When you spread the ball around it makes you a more efficient team and Jake did a nice job of that. Cager is playing well, too. He’s got to continue to lead and help us grow. He’s done a good job of that.”

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