For Georgia receiver Jonathon Rumph, the difference between this spring and last spring is like the distance between Athens and his hometown of Cayce, S.C., which, for the record, is about 160 miles.
A junior-college transfer from Holmes (Miss.) Community College, the 6-foot-5, 208-pound Rumph was challenged by the Bulldogs‚Äô playbook last spring, but turned in a notable performance at G-Day, catching four passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
‚ÄúIf everybody remembers a year ago and the spring game, that‚Äôs what most fans remember because he made a couple of big plays in the spring game,‚Äù Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Rumph. ‚ÄúThat was probably his best day of the spring last year, not because he was doing poorly, but he was learning, basically. He had a big day in the spring game last year ‚Äî he ran a couple of go-routes and looked good doing it.‚Äù
Quarterback Hutson Mason said that until Rumph had learned his responsibilities, he couldn‚Äôt really move at the appropriate pace.
‚ÄúWhen you bring guys in new, it‚Äôs tough for them to play at a high level because they don‚Äôt know the playbook,‚Äù Mason said. ‚ÄúWhen you don‚Äôt know the playbook, it‚Äôs hard to play fast. He did have a good G-Day last year, but he was struggling last spring just as far as where to line up. You want to see your receivers play fast so you can see how athletic they are, but he couldn‚Äôt do that last spring because he was still trying to figure out everything. But now he‚Äôs got the playbook down and he looks good.‚Äù
Although his chances in the regular season were complicated by a hamstring injury, Rumph is emphatic that the 2013 campaign was still a productive experience for him.
‚ÄúThe difference from this year and last year is I‚Äôve got a year of Division I coaching and technique teaching, (and) weight-room working under my belt,‚Äù said Rumph, who had seven receptions for 121 yards in five games last year. ‚ÄúThis is my third year playing receiver, because in high school I played quarterback. I‚Äôm just growing every day; I feel like the sky‚Äôs the limit for me.‚Äù
Rumph has a better handle on things this spring and has drawn praise for his progress. He‚Äôs also taken advantage of the opportunities he‚Äôs had in Georgia‚Äôs two scrimmages, leading all receivers with 10 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs much more proficient at running all the routes and understanding better what to do,‚Äù Richt said.
‚ÄúRumph is having a great spring and it‚Äôs night and day from last spring,‚Äù Mason added. ‚ÄúAs far as his ball skills, whenever the ball‚Äôs been thrown to him, he‚Äôs made the catch. He had several catches today and he looked good again. This is probably what the coaches had in mind when they got him out of JUCO ‚Äì a big tall guy who can go get the ball. He‚Äôs shown that he can do that.‚Äù
The hamstring that slowed Rumph down last fall also stretched his patience a bit, especially considering that with the injuries suffered by other Bulldogs receivers, he might have had an excellent chance to step in and contribute more.
‚ÄúI was very frustrated with my hamstring injury because I‚Äôd never hurt myself,‚Äù said Rumph, who will have plenty of family in the stands for today‚Äôs G-Day Game. ‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt know how to handle it and I didn‚Äôt know how to go about it. Should I push myself and try to come back? Or should I just relax and let it heal on its own? But we were in a situation where a lot of guys went down, so I had to force the issue. I couldn‚Äôt redshirt but I wasn‚Äôt moping about that. I had to do what we best for my team. I did what I had to do and I‚Äôm still blessed to play the game that I love.‚Äù
Senior flanker Chris Conley believes that with Rumph, the best is yet to come.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a guy who‚Äôs still learning the system and still working hard to elevate his game and get better, and that‚Äôs one of the highlights about him, he‚Äôs not a guy who‚Äôs resting on his laurels,‚Äù Conley said. ‚ÄúHe wants to get better and he wants to be as good as he can be and he hasn‚Äôt reached it.‚Äù