Georgia’s offense has scrimmaged twice this preseason without playmaker Malcom Mitchell on its side and its world has not collapsed.
Quarterback Aaron Murray still has completed nearly 71 percent of his passes.
The Bulldogs got a pair of 100-yard receiving outputs and none of them came from Tavarres King, its leading receiver last season.
Senior Marlon Brown put up 103 yards receiving with two touchdowns on six catches last week. Sophomore Chris Conley went for 114 yards and a touchdown on four catches on Wednesday.
“I feel like the receiving corps is feeling strong right now,” Conley said. “We’re feeling comfortable with each other. We know that all of us can make a lot of plays.”
Georgia lost tight ends Orson Charles and Aron White, who combined for 20 career touchdown catches, to the NFL. Junior Arthur Lynch and redshirt freshman Jay Rome are the top two now at the position.That could mean the Bulldogs will lean more heavily on the wideouts in the passing game.
“That’s a fair assessment,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “It could be a little bit like ’08 when we had a loss at tight end and we went to more three receiver sets and four receiver sets. I do feel confident in the two tight ends and the freshman we got that they’re going to pick it up and provide a spark for us offensively and be productive.
It’s really your personnel group that best gives you the chance to move the football is who we’re going to go with.”
Receivers Mohamed Massaquoui (58 catches) and A.J. Green (56) were the top targets for Matthew Stafford in 2008, a year the Bulldogs averaged 277.7 yards per game passing, the most since the Bulldogs averaged 338.8 in 2004 behind Eric Zeier.
Georgia returns fifth-year senior King (47 catches, 705 yards, eight touchdowns), redshirt sophomore Michael Bennett (32 catches, 320 yards, five touchdowns) and sophomore Conley (16 catches, 228 yards, two touchdowns).
Brown and junior Rantavious Wooten, who played only three games last year due to a concussion, and redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley round out the returners from last year’s roster.
“Everybody’s got a year under their belt,” King said. “It’s crazy how deadly this part of the offense can be. You never know who the ball is going to. It’s kind of like a pick your poison kind of deal. It’s crazy.”
They are certainly not lacking for confidence.
“I expect us to be the best in the nation as a group,” said the 5-foot-10 Wooten, who is put on eight pounds in the last year and is now at 181. “We can go ones, twos and threes. A lot of people can play. You can’t key in one one guy because the other guy’s going to get you.”
Freshman Blake Tibbs is the new addition. He had three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown against the No. 1 defense Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tibbs get in there and help us,” coach Mark Richt said.
Mitchell is playing cornerback now to help a depleted secondary, but the player who led the Bulldogs in receiving yards per game last year is expected to get offensive work in practice as the opener draws closer, Richt has said, and see increased time at receiver as the season progresses.
“The guy is still paying attention, still knows what’s going on on offense and I feel like it would be seamless for him to come back on the other side of the ball,” Conley said.
Georgia has worked some this preseason with a four-receiver set, according to one receiver, with King, Bennett, Brown and Conley.
“We do have weapons, but Malcolm is such a special player,” King said. “I’d love to have him back on offense because he’s a special guy and he does special things.”
Conley said the receivers are comfortable lining up at flanker, slot or split end.
“They can make some plays if you just give them a chance,” Murray said. “They’ve done a great job all camp of not only making the catch, but breaking tackles. They’re getting the ball one-on-one and they’re not getting tackled in an open space. They’re getting yards after the catch, they’re making big plays.”
Bennett believes Georgia has depth, experience and enough playmakers. They haven’t proven they can be consistent on a weekly basis, but believe they can.
“This year’s going to be a big year for us to prove that we have a lot of different weapons at receiver,” Conley said. “Maybe after this year they’ll be talking about somebody else being that explosive guy.”