Catching and blocking, Georgia Tech receiver Malachi Carter emerging

Georgia Tech wide receiver Malachi Carter (15) runs for a touchdown at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, October 9, 2020. Georgia Tech won 46-27 over Louisville. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Malachi Carter made two highlight-reel catches in Georgia Tech’s 46-27 win over Louisville on Friday night, including a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the Yellow Jackets up by 12 and cement the victory.

But for Tech coach Geoff Collins, the junior wide receiver’s best play of the game was one where he didn’t even touch the ball.

Late in the first half, with Tech trailing 21-7, freshman quarterback Jeff Sims found freshman running back Jahmyr Gibbs on a screen. Gibbs turned it into a 41-yard gain to set up a touchdown three plays later. Carter’s downfield block to open the lane for Gibbs became what Collins said was one of his favorite plays that Carter made in the game.

“Two key blocks on that play were Malachi Carter and Ahmarean Brown,” Collins said Tuesday. “Blocking downfield at a high level, within the framework of the body, and being unbelievable teammates.”

Through the first four games of the season, Carter has 14 receptions for 213 total yards and two touchdowns. In Friday’s game alone, Carter caught three passes for 89 total yards and added a touchdown. Last year, Carter had a total of 240 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games.

Carter, a junior, is emerging as one of Tech’s key receivers, and both Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude credit the progression to Carter’s dedication and work ethic.

“Malachi works so hard,” Collins said. “If you saw his Catapult numbers in practice, they’re through the roof every single day. He just goes so hard. Then when he gets to the games, that’s just how he’s wired to play that way.”

When Collins took the reins of the program at Tech, he knew he faced an uphill battle to convert the offense from a triple-option to a pro-style spread offense. Part of that uphill battle involved players getting bigger and stronger, and Carter was no exception. While his height and weight on the roster — 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds — haven’t changed since his freshman season, he’s grown stronger within that frame and gotten more explosive as an athlete.

“His body has just matured,” Patenaude said. “He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s more explosive. (Strength-and-conditioning coach) Lewis Caralla has done a great job with him in the weight room and his running technique and those kinds of things. When you watch him, he’s very explosive.”

In addition to getting stronger, both Collins and Patenaude praised wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon for his work with Carter and the rest of the receiver group. The first year of a new offense always comes with a learning curve, and so far this season, Tech’s offense looks much more comfortable and more efficient than it was last year.

Some of that improvement can be attributed to having reliable receivers such as Carter. So far, Tech’s passing attack is averaging more than 100 more yards per game than it did last season, going from 133.9 passing yards per game in 2019 to 239.3 in 2020. It may be a small sample size of only four games, but averaging more than 100 more passing yards per game is clear evidence of improvement.

“I think (Carter’s) understanding of how to play receiver at an elite level has been really special,” Patenaude said. "Kerry Dixon is an elite wide receiver coach, so under his tutelage (and) all of that, that whole room has really grown. Malachi’s confidence is a lot higher. He’s made plays in games against really good players, which I think helps your confidence.

“... He’s playing at a very high level, and if he continues to do that, the sky’s the limit for him. He could be a Sunday player.”

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