There wasn’t much for Georgia fans to get excited about with the Bulldogs’ receiving corps in the first game of the post-A.J. Green era.
Tavarres King, the Bulldogs’ top returner at the position, dropped a couple of passes in a 35-21 loss to Boise State. Tight end Orson Charles had twice as many catches as any wideout.
Georgia showed more promise at the position Saturday against South Carolina when five wide receivers combined for 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think they’re coming along,” coach Mark Richt said. “I think we do have at least six guys that can make some plays out there.”
Green, the No. 4 overall NFL draft pick, and Kris Durham, a fourth-round pick, combined for 89 catches for 1507 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. King was the only returning receiver with more than 11 catches in 2010.
“People were saying, ‘What are you going to do with Kris Durham and A.J. gone?’” junior receiver Rantavious Wooten said. “We’re stepping up.”
On the Bulldogs’ longest drive of the 45-42 loss to the Gamecocks — nine plays and 88 yards in the second half — quarterback Aaron Murray spread the ball around as he moved the Bulldogs’ on a game-tying drive.
Working out of the shotgun, Murray completed 8-of-8 passes for 85 yards and hit four different wide receivers. The drive began with completions of 7 yards to King, 12 to freshman Malcolm Mitchell, 8 to Marlon Brown and 8 to running back Richard Samuel.
It ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Michael Bennett before Murray hit King on a two-point conversion.
“Murray just did a nice job of taking what the defense gave,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We were able to complete short passes that got them tired and slowed down their pass rush.”
Georgia worked out of the I-formation in the first half, hitting fullback Bruce Figgins on a 25-yard gain out of play action, but turned more to the spread in the second half to “deke and dunk them,” Bobo said.
“Those guys are coming in there and making plays — first-team, second-team, third-team guys,” Murray said. “It’s definitely a positive to know that we have that many guys that can easily step in there no matter what and make plays for us.”
Freshman Malcolm Mitchell from Valdosta leads the Bulldogs in receiving with eight catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia got touchdown catches from Wooten, Bennett and King against the Gamecocks.
“Georgia’s receivers looked better than ours,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose team boasts one of the nation’s best wideouts in Alshon Jeffery.
Wooten beat C.C. Whitlock deep for a 26-yard score and flipped the ball over his shoulder high in the air after the touchdown, something that didn’t please Richt.
Bennett’s most impressive reception was a four-yard grab on third down when he went down low for a shoestring catch. It kept alive a fourth quarter touchdown drive.
“It feels awesome to go out and make a play and contribute to the team,” said Bennett, a redshirt freshman from Alpharetta. “It’s a good feeling instead of sitting on the sidelines, obviously.”
Richt said the receivers still have work to do in their blocking which “could have made the difference from a good run to a great run,” but he said “I thought I saw a lot of guts, a lot of plays that were being made. We dropped a ball here and there, but for the most part I think the receiving corps is growing up and starting to make plays.”
Said Wooten: “We have the depth that we can rotate guys in and out. You won’t lose anything because the same guys that come in are going to make plays, too. I feel like the coaches know that now.”