The news that Georgia had lost another top receiver to an ACL injury caused a collective groan in Athens, Ga., on Sunday night. Mark Richt announced that Marlon Brown’s career for the Bulldogs came to an end when X-rays revealed that the senior would need surgery to repair his knee.
Brown was finally having the type of season that had been expected of him ever since the Bulldogs beat out the Tennessee Volunteers for the 6-foot-5 receiver in a contentious recruiting battle in 2009. Leading the team this year with 27 catches, Brown was second in receiving yards with 469 and had four touchdowns.
Brown's injury came a month after Georgia lost its then-leading receiver, Michael Bennett, to an ACL injury also. Tall and aggressive, Bennett was also the Bulldogs’ best downfield blocker.
With these two weapons out, where will Aaron Murray turn?
At 6-3, Chris Conley is UGA's lone receiver on scholarship who is taller than 6-1. Conley is willing to do the grunt work at which Bennett excelled -- and his grasp of the game belies his sophomore status. Conley can easily step into Brown’s role and be the big target that Murray needs over the middle. So far this season, Conley has seven catches for 84 yards and one touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has made greater use of the tight ends in recent games. However, right guard Chris Burnette also was injured against Ole Miss -- and Murray was sacked five times by the Rebels. If Burnette, who Richt said is day-to-day, cannot play against Auburn on Saturday, then Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome might be counted on for pass protection rather than running routes.
Another option for Murray could be redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley. Although not a tall receiver like Brown, the 5-11 speedster is a track star who runs on the Bulldogs’ track team during the offseason. Brown is not known for his speed and Scott-Wesley can stretch the field in ways that Brown could not. On his only catch this season, Scott-Wesley streaked up the sideline for 43 yards before he was brought down. Georgia could also turn more to former walk-on Rhett McGowan. The 6-foot junior has received increased playing time and often returns punts. McGowan has five catches for 62 yards.