Rantavious Wooten has been the fortunate one this year in the Georgia receiving corps.
While the Bulldogs lost Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley to injury after injury, Wooten has managed to stay on the field and made his share of important plays.
Fourth-quarter touchdown grabs against Tennessee and Auburn when the Bulldogs were trailing were pivotal, and a 41-yard diving catch Saturday in the third quarter against the Tigers, he said, may be the best he’s made as a Bulldog.
“When he has been healthy, he’s played very well for us,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of the fifth-year senior who will play in his 51st game through five seasons as a Bulldog on Saturday against Kentucky. “Watching that tape, he made some really tough catches, some when it counted the most. I’ve been happy with him.”
While Mitchell and Scott-Wesley were lost for the season with torn ACLs and Bennett and Conley each missed two games with knee and ankle injuries, respectively, the 5-foot-10, 176-pound Wooten has played all 10 games this season after having a hard time staying on the field at times earlier in his career.
“He’s been a solid, consistent player this year,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “That’s kind of what we thought of him all along and he had some nagging injuries his first few years that he had to fight through. I told him coming into this year, his senior year, ‘You’re going to have a chance to make some plays,’ and he’s done that when his number’s been called this year.”
The Belle Glade, Fla., native redshirted in 2011 after sustaining a concussion in a motor vehicle accident and missed two games in 2010. He had the “air knocked out of me” after the catch he laid out for against Auburn, but returned.
“Coaches told me they were going to come my way deep,” Wooten said. “When the opportunity presented itself, I had to try to make the play no matter what.”
Wooten is heading into his final home game Saturday coming off the two biggest games of his career in receiving yards. He made four catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Appalachian State in a 45-6 win and following that up with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown against Auburn in the 43-38 loss.
Wooten leads all Georgia receivers with five touchdown catches and is third on the team with 24 receptions for 383 yards. All those numbers are career highs.
“Wooten’s kind of came out of nowhere on a lot of people’s radar and he’s surprised many people,” Conley said. “He’s a playmaker. He’s a guy that’s continuing to get better even late in his senior year and it’s really showing on the field.”
Wooten’s long journey could be bookended by catching touchdown passes from a pair of fifth-year seniors. He grabbed scoring passes of 21 and 43 yards from Joe Cox in 2009 in Cox’s last home game against Kentucky and will get a chance for a similar showing hooking up in the passing game with Aaron Murray on Saturday night.