ATHENS, Ga. -- A natural question when Georgia lost Malcolm Mitchell to a season-ending knee injury was who might replace Mitchell as the Bulldogs' go-to receiver. More to the point, who could take his place as the guy Aaron Murray looks for when he absolutely must complete a pass to extend a drive.
Through three games as a regular member of the Bulldogs' receiving rotation, it appears as though Justin Scott-Wesley might be that guy. Out of his seven receptions this season, three have been on either third or fourth down and all three catches resulted in first downs or touchdowns -- the most memorable of which was an 85-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter of a key win against South Carolina.
“That could be a combination of things -- the call and the defense, [the defensive alignment] they show, progression,” Scott-Wesley said. “And Murray, he has confidence in me and that's something that I'm thankful for and I'm honored by and I just want to come out and keep getting the job done.”
Mitchell was a valuable receiving target from the very beginning of his college career. Dating back to the start of the 2011 season, Murray targeted Mitchell 33 times on third down and completed 22 of them -- with all 22 resulting in a first down according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Chris Conley has been Murray's most frequent third-down target this season, catching two of the four passes directed his way and converting both for touchdowns. Rantavious Wooten also has a pair of third-down catches and conversions.
“A lot of times in third-down situations, it's man coverage,” Conley said. “It's you on the guy in front of you and it comes down to Aaron throwing a good ball, one, and then having the confidence that you're going to do what you're supposed to do in a clutch situation.”
Scott-Wesley, meanwhile, has been Murray's third-down target three times in the three games since he became a regular member of the rotation -- last season's bowl win against Nebraska and the Clemson and South Carolina games this fall -- and has caught all three for 121 yards and three conversions.
Plus, he has been Murray's target on two of the three times this season that the Bulldogs passed on fourth down and he converted in both instances -- once for an 11-yard gain to the Clemson 22 and once for a 24-yard gain to the South Carolina 7. Both fourth-down conversions extended drives that ended with Georgia scoring.
“We expect him to do some big things this year,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “With Malcolm going down, he's had to play more snaps and he's been in position where coverage has dictated the ball's gone to him, and he's responded when his opportunity has arisen.”
All that from a player who had made exactly three catches last season prior to his three-catch, 67-yard performance against Nebraska that helped Scott-Wesley claim a bigger role in the offense now that 2012 seniors Tavarres King and Marlon Brown are out of the picture.
Now the speedy redshirt sophomore is a legitimate weapon for the Bulldogs -- and Murray has full confidence that he can look Scott-Wesley's way when he needs to keep a drive alive.
“We always knew he was very talented and he's a definite big-play threat,” Murray said. “I think his biggest thing was confidence. Once you give a guy some confidence, the sky's the limit when he has that kind of ability. I think it's been a lot of confidence and he's made some big plays for us.”