Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is halfway over and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We’ll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.
ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the highlights of Georgia’s first five games was the production the Bulldogs were getting out of so many different players in the passing game. They enter the second half of the season in a slightly less certain position.
After the Tennessee game, Michael Bennett, Tavarres King and Marlon Brown all ranked among the SEC’s receiving leaders, plus tight end Arthur Lynch had enjoyed big games here and there. However, Bennett -- who was leading the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches at the time -- suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, altering the dynamic within the group.
Georgia has enviable receiving depth, but the Bulldogs need players like Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Rantavious Wooten to produce consistently to offset Bennett’s absence. Tight ends Lynch and Jay Rome -- who have already emerged as solid blockers in addition to their occasional contributions as receivers -- might also see their pass-catching opportunities increase down the stretch.
Overall, the first half was highly productive for Georgia’s receivers and we see that continuing in the second half, particularly if Mitchell -- who is now back on offense after assisting on defense to start the season -- returns to the form that made him an SEC All-Freshman honoree last season,
Let’s examine the first half for Georgia’s receivers and tight ends:
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END REPORT CARD
STARTERS (stats): WR Marlon Brown (18 catches, 283 yards, 3 TDs), WR Tavarres King (17-323, 3 TDs), TE Arthur Lynch (6-148, 1)
RESERVES (stats): WR Michael Bennett (24-345, 4 TDs, out for season with torn ACL), WR Rantavious Wooten (10-118, 1 TD), WR Malcolm Mitchell (9-126), WR Chris Conley (4-46), WR Rhett McGowan (2-26), WR Justin Scott-Wesley (1-43), WR Blake Tibbs (redshirting), TE Jay Rome (2-36), TE Ty Flournoy-Smith (0 catches)
HIGHLIGHT: Georgia had a 100-yard receiver in each of the first four games -- the longest such streak for a Bulldogs team since 2001. Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett all had 100-yard games in that stretch, showing off the versatility within the Bulldogs’ receiving corps.
LOWLIGHT: Last Tuesday, Bennett tore his anterior cruciate ligament while blocking during practice, bringing a sudden end to the sophomore’s breakout season. He was leading the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches at the time -- and the sputtering offense certainly could have used his presence on Saturday at South Carolina.
OVERALL EVALUATION: Receiver is possibly the deepest position on the team, so losing Bennett was painful, but not crippling. However, Georgia needs someone to step into his role alongside Brown and King and nobody did so against South Carolina. Look for Malcolm Mitchell and Rantavious Wooten to play a more active role in the passing game in the second half.
The tight ends have been solid if unspectacular thus far. Although they have not provided the same pass-catching presence that Orson Charles and Aron White did last season, Lynch and Rome have done a good job blocking and have had good games here and there as receivers. Lynch has had 75-yard and 73-yard games and didn’t catch a single pass in the other four. We expect to see Georgia employ their receiving skills more in the second half.
POSITION GRADE: Receivers: A-minus. Tight ends: B