This is it for Jonathon Rumph.
The senior wideout is entering the last season of his college football career, although it‚Äôs as if he‚Äôs really just getting started.
Last season, his first as a Bulldog after transferring from Holmes Community College in Mississippi, Rumph was supposed to provide immediate production. Instead, the 6-foot-5, 218-pound South Carolina native played just five games due to a lingering hamstring injury. He didn‚Äôt appear in a game until late October, against Florida. In the five games he saw time in, Rumph caught seven passes for a total of 121 yards ‚Äî no touchdowns. It isn‚Äôt 2013 anymore, though.
‚ÄúLast year I wasn‚Äôt sure if he really knew what was going on,‚Äù senior quarterback Hutson Mason said. ‚ÄúI would go through a route just praying that he would run the right route, but this year I‚Äôve seen him over and over and just talking to him, he understands what we‚Äôre trying to get done so that gives me lots of confidence in him.‚Äù
Rumph has admitted that getting the whole SEC thing down pat wasn‚Äôt easy for him, but now he‚Äôs starting to catch on.
‚ÄúI know probably about 95 percent of the plays,‚Äù Rumph said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a couple of things I‚Äôve got to work on when I‚Äôm in the slot, but right now I‚Äôm fully functional with all the plays and I‚Äôm doing very good with them.‚Äù
Rumph‚Äôs grasp on the playbook could not come at a better time for Georgia. Coming out of junior college as a top-rated receiver, Rumph was a touchdown-threat-in-the-making according to message board readers who often typed out frustration last season when they couldn‚Äôt see him play due to the injury.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of guys that I say that we‚Äôre going to need this year to perform at a high level to succeed ‚Äî me being one of them,‚Äù Mason said. ‚ÄúBut Rumph is definitely one of those guys that you‚Äôve got to pat him on the back instead of getting on to him all the time. He needs encouragement. He‚Äôs got the skill-set and I think he‚Äôs definitely a lot more comfortable in the offense this year than he was last year, so me and him really have that trust. It‚Äôs been taken to a new level from last year.‚Äù
Those are comforting words for Georgia.
With Malcolm Mitchell (knee) sidelined and Justin Scott-Wesley‚Äôs full return from knee surgery in question, Rumph will be given even less slack than he had as a junior. Rumph has little room for error this season.
‚ÄúNot only does he want to step up, but he needs to,‚Äù senior wide receiver Chris Conley said. ‚ÄúObviously we‚Äôre all running out of time. Corey Moore said it to me today (Tuesday), our playing lifespan as you look at it is diminishing daily, and that‚Äôs kind of the realization that we have as seniors. We realize that this is our last shot ‚Äî there‚Äôs no do-overs.‚Äù
With match-ups with Clemson and South Carolina nearing for Georgia, this is Rumph‚Äôs chance to show why he was so highly touted when he arrived in Athens.
Though he started out his college football career at a junior college, Rumph says he believes the SEC is where he was meant to be.
‚ÄúI always envisioned myself playing collegiate football at the highest level on the biggest stage, so I‚Äôm making my dream a reality,‚Äù Rumph said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm just trying to get to the next level and make that a reality so right now it‚Äôs starting to become a job for me, and that‚Äôs how I‚Äôm looking at it ‚Äî as a business.‚Äù
Clemson and Georgia play Aug. 30, but Rumph is minding his own business until then.
‚ÄúClemson is on my mind, but at the same time I‚Äôm worried about what we‚Äôre doing here at Georgia,‚Äù Rumph said. ‚ÄúIf I‚Äôm right and I‚Äôm doing everything right then Clemson‚Äôs going to be alright.‚Äù
Don‚Äôt let that calm demeanor fool you, though. Rumph says he knows how much is riding on this season ‚Äî his last at Georgia.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been hitting me,‚Äù Rumph said.