The question posed to Georgia tailback Keith Marshall was about newcomers who Bulldogs fans should keep an eye on during Saturday’s G-Day game.
He went a different direction, pinpointing rising junior receiver Chris Conley, who isn’t exactly a fresh face on the offense.
“Everybody’s seen Conley play, but I think he’s taken his game to a new level just as far as the scrimmages,” Marshall said. “He’s been killing it.”
Conley has led Georgia in the two scrimmages with nine catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
“He works hard at what he does and it’s paying off for him,” coach Mark Richt said.
Part of the reason for his production, Conley said, is simply being able to make it through all the practices. He was sidelined last spring after breaking a wrist and a foot, knocking him out of the spring game.
“You have a different perspective and a different appreciation for being able to play the sport that you love,” Conley said. “Being out there on the field, you want to capitalize on every opportunity. … It’s a huge blessing to be able to be out there and practice and play with my boys and just to be able to get better.”
Among the wideouts, Conley is the third leading returning
Malcolm Mitchell had 40 catches last season but is out the rest of the spring with a torn meniscus. Michael Bennett had 24 catches but is out this spring after ACL surgery.
Conley last season had 20 receptions for 342 yards and six touchdowns, second on the team behind only the NFL-bound Tavarres King.
“When we came in together, I saw his talent as a freshman with me redshirting,” tight end Jay Rome said. “I just feel like him, Malcolm, me and a lot of other guys that when an opportunity presents itself and we get the ball in our hands, we can do great things with it. Conley has been really getting after it. He’s a really dedicated player. He puts in a lot of extra hours.”
That includes working on team off days with Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and others, Rome said. They go through drills and catch balls off the Jugs machine.
“I think the best thing about this receiving corps is there’s a lot of talented people on it, but there’s not big egos,” Conley said. “There’s not a guy who says, ‘I want my touches. I want to be that No. 1 guy.’ It’s just a whole bunch of guys who are willing to go out there and work, and whoever starts a game, we’re fine with that. Everybody else is going to be able to get touches and make plays, too.”
The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Conley is lining up primarily at flanker this spring after playing most of last season as the slot receiver.
He had touchdown catches of 87 and 49 yards in the Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska.
“He had a very strong end of the year last year and has had a great spring,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “The thing about Chris that as a quarterback you enjoy is he really goes and gets the ball with his hands. He doesn’t let the ball get into him at all. He’s a lanky kid, a strong kid, but very long and is able to go up there and snatch the ball.”
Conley is looking forward to the G-Day game — the third scrimmage of the spring — because it’s the closest thing Georgia will have to a game situation for months.
“I’ve been working on some little things this spring and I think the coaches have taken notice,” Conley said. “They’re giving me more opportunities. I’m getting to stay in longer drives and getting more opportunities in the passing game. Aaron’s giving me shots and I’ve been capitalizing on them.”
MORE GEORGIA FOOTBALL
Wideout Conley taking his game ‘to a new level’
Theus will get a shot at left tackle for G-Day
Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell out for surgery until August
Fans submitting plays for G-Day scrimmage
Quick hits: LB Carter ‘a stud;’ WRs Scott-Wesley, Conley in non-contact jerseys
VIDEOS FROM THURSDAY’S PRACTICE