Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson sees a bright future for wide receiver Jalen Camp.
About to enter his junior season, Camp fits the Yellow Jackets’ wide receiver mold. He is 6-foot-2, 213 pounds and can bench press 380 pounds. He was a sprinter in high school, once running the 100-meter dash in 11.08 seconds.
“Jalen needs to be a good player for us,” Johnson said Monday after the team’s ninth workout of spring practice. “He’s got all the tools. Physically, he’s big, he’s strong. He needs to be more consistent and be a player.”
With the graduation of Ricky Jeune, Tech needs a second starting wide receiver opposite Brad Stewart, and Camp has the inside track. That being the case, Johnson, as ever, wants to see more.
Jeune, an NFL draft hopeful, made big plays in the passing game, averaging 20.2 yards per catch on 74 career receptions. He made an equal impact in the running game. Clips of touchdown runs by Yellow Jackets running backs and quarterbacks in the past three seasons often conclude with the ball carrier racing past an opposing defensive back being driven out of the play or sealed off by Jeune.
“It’s definitely some big shoes to fill, but I’m taking a positive approach and trying to get to where he was by film watching and getting reps out there on the practice field,” Camp said.
Johnson said that Camp needs experience to improve with his blocking and sometimes just needs to turn loose, playing with confidence in his knowledge of the scheme and in his ability.
“He should be a killer blocker, as big and strong as he is,” Johnson said.
Camp acknowledged that he hears about his blocking plenty.
“I think (wide receivers coach Buzz Preston), that’s the main thing he’s pushing,” Camp said. “He knows I can catch. He knows I can run routes, but the blocking thing is the biggest.”
Given that Tech runs about 80 percent of the time, the priority on run blocking is understandable. To improve, Camp said, he has to improve at positioning, notably keeping between the cornerback and the sideline, “knowing that the defender has to go through me to get to the ball, and just staying true to that.”
Last season, Camp was the No. 3 receiver behind Jeune and Stewart. He caught one pass, a 49-yard touchdown reception against Virginia.
He showed some of his progress this spring with a big scrimmage Saturday morning, winning a jump ball for a 40-yard reception and then scoring on a 20-yard pass, both from quarterback TaQuon Marshall.
“I made a couple plays, but coach Buzz tends to keep us grounded, not really focusing on the big plays but helping you improve on the bad things,” Camp said.
With 10 players back on offense who started six or more games, Jeune’s old spot is the only one where a new player will be coming in. Camp is trying to hold off sophomores Jair Hawkins-Anderson and Stephen Dolphus and redshirt freshman Adonicas Sanders. Signees Malachi Carter and Peje’ Harris will make a bid for playing time in the preseason.
A strong finish to the spring will put Camp in position to command a healthy chunk of playing time this fall.
And if he can fulfill the vision that Johnson holds for him, it could mean big things for the Tech offense.
“I think I’ve come a long way,” Camp said. “Coach Buzz occasionally shows us film from a couple years ago, and I think it’s night and day. But I still have room for improvement.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Jalen Camp’s maximum bench press.