Georgia Bulldogs more than fine at wide receiver

Georgia football-wide receivers-2022

Credit: robert.andres@ajc.com

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Bulldogs receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) makes a 40-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship between Georgia and Alabama. (Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)

Credit: robert.andres@ajc.com

SPRING PREVIEW 2022: WIDE RECEIVERS

ATHENS — Think about it: George Pickens could have returned to Georgia this year and still been a junior. Because he played in only four games for the Bulldogs last season, he would’ve been eligible for a redshirt.

Of course, that’s ridiculous. Coming off a torn ACL in his right knee, Pickens projected as a high draft pick even before he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine this past week. Now the 6-foot-3 split end is being given first-round consideration again.

That point needs to be underscored before discussing Georgia’s 2022 receiving corps. The Bulldogs didn’t have Pickens most of the season; he played in only the final four games of the season and then sparingly. And while he made impactful plays in those last three – including a 52-yard reception in the national championship win over Alabama – Georgia’s offense got along just fine without him. The fact is, the Bulldogs didn’t lose a game while Pickens was sidelined. Yet, they were one of the most efficient teams in the country throwing the football all year and discovered some very dynamic young receivers in Pickens’ absence.

All but one of those wideouts are back. Most notably, Adonai “A.D.” Mitchell returns at the X position once manned by Pickens. After catching the game-winning TD pass in the national title game, the 6-4 Mitchell clearly is the budding all-star of the bunch.

But Mitchell is representative of the whole group. It’s a youthful outfit with just the right amount of experience and leadership sprinkled in to show the way. And with new receivers coach Bryan McClendon at the helm and four signees coming in, there should be new blood and new energy to match.

  • Returning starters: Adonai “A.D.” Mitchell (6-4, 190, So.) and Ladd McConkey (6-0, 190, So.)
  • All eyes on: Dominick Blaylock and Arian Smith
  • Outlook: Georgia fans are impatient to see the Bulldogs field a set of wideouts becoming of those they’ve seen at Alabama and LSU the past few years – X’s, Y’s and Z’s running free all over the field for giant-chunk plays and long touchdowns. Not that Georgia can’t or won’t, but that’s just not how its offense is built. With quarterback Stetson Bennett back at the controls and coordinator Todd Monken overseeing, the Bulldogs will remain a play-action-oriented offense that operates on versatility and unpredictably. Georgia had 20 different players record receptions last year, more than half of whom were tight ends or backs. It’s truly pro style. The promise of playing more and more targets is why Jermaine Burton bolted to Alabama, and that hurts. Burton’s a stud, and that can’t be dismissed. But Burton started only seven games for the Bulldogs last year, barely played the midseason stretch due to injuries and caught more than three passes in a game only once. He and sophomore Justin Robinson (Mississippi State) were the two portal losses. But in addition to Mitchell (12 starts/15 games, 29 catches, 446 yards, 4 TDs), Georgia knows it has reliable wideouts in McConkey (7/15, 31-447-5), senior Kearis Jackson (2/15, 16-194-1) and junior Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (4/15, 3-102-2). There also are three notable wild cards in Arian Smith, Dominick Blaylock and Arik Gilbert. The oft-injured speed demon Smith returns after averaging an insane 37.6 yards per catch on five career receptions (3 TDs). The sophomore Blaylock, a former starting flanker, is finally fully recovered from back-to-back ACL tears of his left knee. And Gilbert, the 6-5, 240-pound former LSU star, remains enrolled at UGA and is listed on the Bulldogs’ 2022 roster. His intention remains to convert from tight end to split end, but Monken promises to have myriad ways to utilize the former freshman All-American if he remains engaged. Four freshmen will battle for playing time as well in Dillon Bell, De’Nylon Morrissette, C.J. Smith and Cole Speer. The Bulldogs should be fine.
  • Up next: Tight ends

PREVIOUSLY

Spring Preview 2022 is a 10-part series that will take a look at each of Georgia’s position groups daily until the Bulldogs open spring practice March 15.