3 Georgia Tech wide receivers emerging in the preseason

Georgia Tech wide receiver Malachi Carter (15) participates in warmups. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Among most Georgia Tech fans, wide receiver Jalen Camp is likely a known. The senior from South Forsyth High is a returning starter and figures to play prominently in the Yellow Jackets’ spread offense.

As for who follows Camp at receiver, fans’ knowledge may get a little dicey. But there’s a handful of names that Tech fans likely will be hearing as offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude rolls out offensive personnel groups with three and four receivers and shifts the run/pass ratio more toward 50/50 in a transition from the run-oriented offense of former coach Paul Johnson.

“Everybody can’t get the ball, but we’ve got enough receivers so when a ball is thrown our way, they can go out and make plays,” receiver Adonicas Sanders said.

At the outside receiver spot, Malachi Carter has the look of a potential star. Carter, a sophomore from Mountain View High who was the No. 3 receiver last season behind Brad Stewart and Camp, has good hands, fights for the ball in the air and has added strength and speed since last season. Coach Geoff Collins has held him up as an example to teammates not only for spectacular catches, but for the effort and competitiveness that he shows play-to-play in practice.

Patenaude raised eyebrows last week when he said that Carter was "playing at an unbelievable level right now" and that "I'm not trading that dude for a lot of guys."

Wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon joined the chorus Thursday after practice, categorizing Carter’s development as “unbelievable.” If he can grow in his recognition of coverages and leverage and continues to work, Dixon said, Carter could be “really special.”

“He has really good speed, he has great length,” Dixon said. “His catch radius is off the chart. He’s still learning the game, which is a good thing for a young player going into his sophomore year.”

At slot receiver, early-enrollee freshman Ahmarean Brown looks like he’ll be getting a lot of playing time. Brown doesn’t have great size at 5-foot-10, but he’s among the fastest players on the team and ran the 100-meter dash in 10.4 seconds in high school. Brown was a late addition to Tech’s 2019 signing class, recruited by Tech only after Collins’ hire.

“I’ve never seen speed like that from a slot receiver,” Sanders said.

Brown is unusually smart for a freshman, Dixon said, able to grasp an adjustment made in a position meeting and promptly execute it on the practice field.

“He has uncanny ability to get open on the second level,” Dixon said. “He knows how to use his speed, he knows how to decelerate and accelerate whenever he has to, which makes him a huge weapon on the inside.”

Perhaps the most unlikely receiver to emerge is slot receiver Josh Blancato, a walk-on from Kell High. Blancato was an A-back in Johnson’s option offense who appeared in one game last season as a redshirt freshman, but he has repeatedly made plays in practice and wowed coaches and teammates with his effort.

He is running No. 2 at slot receiver behind Brown, an example of the opportunity that awaited players in the coaching transition. Dixon said that his scores on the Catapult system (the team’s wearable GPS technology that tracks player movement in games and practice) are “out the door” and assured that “he’ll be a guy that can definitely help us this year.”

“Josh is the man,” Carter said. “That’s a little man with a lot of confidence right there. He’s real tough, real strong, real fast, and he’s just shown a lot of confidence in the way he plays.”

They’re not the only ones who could emerge. Sanders has made strides in the spring and in the preseason as he returned from a collarbone injury suffered last season. Jair Hawkins-Anderson, who has played both receiver and corner, also is loaded with speed.

Omahri Jarrett could be useful as he can play both slot and running back. Miami transfer Marquez Ezzard is waiting to hear on his request for an immediate-eligibility waiver. Dixon called PeJé Harris “a breakout player for us.” Stephen Dolphus has fought injuries but has enviable size. Dixon even said of freshmen Nazir Burnett, Kalani Norris and Zach Owens that “they’ll be able to help us this year” as they continue to develop.

Coaches likely will find out more at the team’s first scrimmage of the preseason, taking place this Saturday.

But, for a start, Carter, Brown and Blancato, along with Camp, are three to watch.

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