This is it for Jonathon Rumph.
Georgia wide receiver Jonathon Rumph (18) is brought down by Appalachian State defensive back Kevin Walton (13) after a catch during the second half of the NCAA football game between Georgia and Appalachian State in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Georgia won 45-6. (AJ Reynolds/Staff, @ajreynoldsphoto)
The senior wideout is entering the last season of his college football career, although it’s as if he’s 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’t 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 — no touchdowns. It isn’t 2013 anymore, though.
“Last year I wasn’t sure if he really knew what was going on,” senior quarterback Hutson Mason said. “I would go through a route just praying that he would run the right route, but this year I’ve seen him over and over and just talking to him, he understands what we’re trying to get done so that gives me lots of confidence in him.”
Rumph has admitted that getting the whole SEC thing down pat wasn’t easy for him, but now he’s starting to catch on.
“I know probably about 95 percent of the plays,” Rumph said. “There’s a couple of things I’ve got to work on when I’m in the slot, but right now I’m fully functional with all the plays and I’m doing very good with them.”
Rumph’s 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’t see him play due to the injury.
“There’s a lot of guys that I say that we’re going to need this year to perform at a high level to succeed — me being one of them,” Mason said. “But Rumph is definitely one of those guys that you’ve got to pat him on the back instead of getting on to him all the time. He needs encouragement. He’s got the skill-set and I think he’s definitely a lot more comfortable in the offense this year than he was last year, so me and him really have that trust. It’s been taken to a new level from last year.”
Those are comforting words for Georgia.
With Malcolm Mitchell (knee) sidelined and Justin Scott-Wesley’s 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.
“Not only does he want to step up, but he needs to,” senior wide receiver Chris Conley said. “Obviously we’re 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’s kind of the realization that we have as seniors. We realize that this is our last shot — there’s no do-overs.”
With match-ups with Clemson and South Carolina nearing for Georgia, this is Rumph’s 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.
“I always envisioned myself playing collegiate football at the highest level on the biggest stage, so I’m making my dream a reality,” Rumph said. “I’m just trying to get to the next level and make that a reality so right now it’s starting to become a job for me, and that’s how I’m looking at it — as a business.”
Clemson and Georgia play Aug. 30, but Rumph is minding his own business until then.
“Clemson is on my mind, but at the same time I’m worried about what we’re doing here at Georgia,” Rumph said. “If I’m right and I’m doing everything right then Clemson’s going to be alright.”
Don’t let that calm demeanor fool you, though. Rumph says he knows how much is riding on this season — his last at Georgia.
“It’s been hitting me,” Rumph said.