ATHENS, Ga. -- Watch highlight footage of Tramel Terry excelling at both receiver and running back in high school and you’ll see where the conundrum lies for Georgia’s coaches, who must determine the best way to use the speedster in college.
His coach at Goose Creek (S.C) High School, Chuck Reedy -- a former college coach himself -- even wrestled with where to play Terry before Georgia decided to deploy him at wideout when he enrolled earlier this month. And Reedy amusedly recalled a conversation concerning that very subject with Terry’s lead UGA recruiter, tight ends coach John Lilly, from last fall.
“I said, ‘I really think he’s a running back. Even though that’s not where he played when he was younger, we played him there the last two years about half the time,’” Reedy said. “But he just made a lot of plays, was really instinctive and had good vision and all those things. I said, ‘I’m just not sure that’s not where he needs to play.’
“And then we go out that night and the team we were playing was very good and they were going to take the running game away from us and so he ended up catching three or four touchdown passes. He just made some unbelievable plays,” Reedy continued. “And I walked down to John, he was down on the other end of the box there, and I said, ‘Well heck, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he is a receiver.’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘Coach it don’t matter. He’s a football player. He’ll play somewhere.’ And I said, ‘You’re right.’
“So you just don’t know. Wherever we put him, he was a heck of a player.”
That he was, becoming ESPN’s No. 89 overall prospect, the No. 9 athlete, an Under Armour All-American and South Carolina’s “Mr. Football.” He is the first player in the last five years to win that prestigious honor and not sign with the home-state Gamecocks.
But despite pushes from South Carolina and Clemson, Terry has long been a Georgia fan. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt made a good impression on then-freshman Terry when visiting Goose Creek to watch teammate Brandon Shell, and Reedy remembers telling Richt even then that Terry possessed talent in the same class as another Georgia star from their area.
“Tramel had told me, ‘My dream has always been to play at Georgia,’ so I introduced him to Coach Richt and told him,” Reedy said. “I said, ‘I don’t know if he’s the next A.J. Green or not, but he’ll be the best one down here since A.J.’ He was just tickled to death that Georgia was there. He’s got a lot of family around there and he grew up being a Georgia fan. I think A.J. Green obviously being from right across the interstate from us, that just added to it.”
As for his college position, Richt sees Terry’s explosiveness -- thanks to an impressive combination of strength and track-star speed -- as a weapon Georgia can best utilize at receiver.
“Some of the best wide receivers I’ve ever been around have been running backs in their career,” Richt said. “They were a little bit tougher than most receivers and they’ve got some great running skills after the catch and that type of thing. So he’s going to be in Coach [Tony] Ball’s room as a wide receiver so that’s kind of where we’ve got him pegged right now.”
The first date Georgia fans will see Terry playing the position is a different question altogether. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in an all-star game last month. While his rehabilitation is reportedly progressing rapidly, it is unclear whether his knee will be healthy enough for him to play this fall.
Richt said Terry might play in 2013 even if he’s not physically ready for the Aug. 31 opener against Clemson, but it’s still far too early to make that determination. But Terry was also mature enough to understand that if a redshirt is in his future, the chance to adjust to full-time work at receiver would be beneficial.
“That’s one of the things he told me: ‘You know, if I have to redshirt next year, it won’t be all bad,’ ” Reedy said. “As much as he wanted, and obviously by enrolling early his objective was to go through spring and be able to play as a freshman, and he still may be able to do that. I don’t think any of us know at this point. But he’s not going to pout around if he doesn’t. He’ll just develop his skills as a redshirt if that’s what it takes.”