For the second straight year, the Georgia Bulldogs will go into spring practice crossing all their fingers and at least some of their toes that they can stay healthy at wide receiver.
That wasn't the case in 2009.
Somehow, the Bulldogs did manage to make it through the season with just six scholarship receivers after senior Kris Durham was knocked out in preseason with a shoulder injury.
Flash forward to 2010.
Durham will be back and addition of freshman Michael Bennett will boost the number of scholarship receivers to seven, but according to head coach Mark Richt, there's still legitimate reason for some concern.
It wasn't supposed to be this worrisome. But when Da'Rick Rogers spurned the Bulldogs for Tennessee, it put a crimp in Georgia's plans for improving their receiver depth. The Bulldogs did sign Wilcox County receiver Lonnie Outlaw but the 6-foot-6 player is expected to have to attend Georgia Military before arriving in Athens.
"Depth is definitely an issue at receiver," Richt said. "I would say we don't have, at this moment, a good number that I feel comfortable having - and that's always give or take one or two."
The Bulldogs definitely need to stay healthy.
A.J. Green led Georgia with a team-high 53 catches for 808 yards and six touchdowns despite missing the final two games of the regular season after injuring his shoulder against Auburn 14.
Take away that 25 grabs that Mike Moore caught as a senior, and the rest of Georgia's returning receivers combined to snag just 36 passes, and that includes a pair by Branden Smith, who some time in both the backfield and at wideout for the Bulldogs last fall.
]db]Tavarres King led the group with 18 catches for 377 yards and one score, and no doubt will be counted on to help compliment Green, as will Rantavious Wooten who caught 10 passes for 197 yards and two scores.
Durham will help bolster the receiving corps.
The Calhoun native caught 13 passes for 199 yards and a score in 2008, and his experience will no doubt come in handy for whomever starts at quarterback - be in Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger or Logan Gray - in the fall.
Georgia will also need rising junior Israel Troupe (4 catches, 39 yard) to continue making strides, along with sophomore Marlon Brown, who coaches say play a much larger role in the offense than he did as a freshman when he caught just two passes for 15 yards.
Providing the group can stay healthy, Richt said the Bulldogs will still be able to run the same plays they did last fall.
"That's not to say we won't continue to play three-receiver sets. We're not going to quit doing that by any means," he said. "Usually during the season you're probably going to play around six or seven [receivers] and that's what we have right now, so everybody's going to get their share. We need to stay healthy at that position."
Fortunately for Georgia, Richt says the Bulldog tight ends should be able to shoulder their share of the receiving load, and that should take some of the pressure off the receiving corps.
There's certainly plenty of talent there.
Rising sophomore Orson Charles actually finished as the team's third-leading receiver with 23 grabs for 374 yards and three touchdowns.
His performance earned him a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team, an honor Charles said he took great pride in receiving.
"Getting on the (Freshman) All-Conference team was not one of my main goals, but it was one of my goals," Charles said. "The most I wanted was to get a ring, but next year I think we'll have a better chance. This year was a learning process. I'm pretty sure we're not going to go through this again."
He wasn't the only Bulldog tight end to make an impact catching the football.
Position mate Aron White was Georgia's fifth-leading receiver with 11 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Arthur Lynch returns for his sophomore season with Bruce Figgins also back after redshirting last fall.
"One thing I'm excited about and confident in is our tight end position. What you're looking for in offensive football is a chance to have some mismatches, whether it be at receiver, tight end, running back, whatever it may be. "Richt said. "That's what you're always looking for - we're blessed with four outstanding tight ends. We certainly have playmakers and good solid depth with guys that can really play that position. I think that takes a little of the burden off the wide receiving corps."
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