ATHENS — Still waiting.
That was the word from Georgia coach Kirby Smart when the questions following Saturday’s spring scrimmage at Sanford Stadium turned to the wide receiver corps. The Bulldogs are having to pretty much overhaul their rotation after losing their top three pass-catchers from a year ago.
While there remains a couple of veterans the fourth-year coach can depend on, it doesn’t sound like any others have stepped up to the point they can be assured of being penciled into those blank lines still remaining on the depth chart.
“As vertical outside threats, I think that Tyler (Simmons) and JJ (Holloman) are playing well, but it’s not going to done just by them,” Smart said following the three-hour workout, which culminated with the Bulldogs’ first controlled, game-simulation scrimmage of the spring. “The Matt Landers, the Trey Blounts, the Kearis Jacksons, those guys, D-Rob (Demetris Robertson), they need to step up to make us dangerous on offense.”
The Bulldogs split up into four basic units, much in the same way they will for the annual G-Day Game on April 20. That is, the No. 1 offense went against the No. 2 defense, the No. 1 defense went against the No. 2 offense, and then they mixed and matched besides. In between came some special teams work and situationals, such as third-downs and goal line.
As for the wideout, Landers, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound redshirt sophomore from Pinellas, Fla., was one who caught Smart’s attention. But, at first, for the wrong reasons. Smart said Landers had some early drops, which became a point of frustration both for him and Landers.
“Then Matt made some really good plays,” Smart said. “Again, that’s some of the inconsistencies we need to be consistent to get where we need to go. We’re looking for wide receivers to step up.”
Landers appeared in four games last season but has yet to register a catch in his career. He’s one of several tall, outside receivers the Bulldogs are looking to add to the rotation after losing Riley Ridley a year early to the NFL draft.
“He made a couple of very good plays, but the average play you should make every day, he had a couple of those he didn’t,” Smart said. “So, we need him to grow up to be the kind of football team we’ve got to have.”
Georgia’s also seeking replacements for Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin, who often lined up in the inside slot. Redshirt freshman Kearis Jackson is considered the favorite to win that job, but an intense competition is being waged for that right. Demetris Robertson, for one, is displaying the versatility to play both there and at split end.
Smart said both Jackson and Robertson “made some plays” out of the slot on Saturday.
“That’s an area that, moving forward after the first scrimmage, we’re gonna look at and say, ‘what other pieces do we have … that could go inside to make sure that we have a threat there,” Smart said. “Kearis made a couple of plays today but he left a couple on the table. That’s where the consistency at receiver is what we need to be explosive.”
Georgia has two signees joining the receivers in July. Both of Dominick Blaylock and George Perkins carried some 5-star ratings in recruiting. Blaylock has been earmarked as a slot receiver.
“We don’t have him pigeonholed anywhere,” Smart said. “We think Dom can play all three spots, slot and both outside. He’s very bright and intelligent. He picks up things well. We think he’s going to help in the return game, too. But it’s not like we’re sitting there going, ‘He’s a slot receiver.’ We think he can play all of them.”
As for the rest of the scrimmage, Smart was fairly lukewarm in his response. He said he was pleased with the “effort and enthusiasm” but somewhat annoyed by “inconsistency.”
Offensive play was highlighted by a couple of long runs off backfield passes to Brian Herrien and D’Andre Swift. Defensively, “some good licks were passed” and they held the offense to field goals before allowing “a couple of explosives” later, Smart said.
“As always is the case in scrimmages, one side will shine and then the other side will shine,” he said. “I thought defensively we started our really well. The No. 2 defense went against the No 1 offense and at least held them to field goals early. The No. 1 defense dominated the No. 2 offense early. When we started going 1s vs 1s we had some really good competition.”
Saturday’s workout represented the ninth of what will be 15 during the spring session. Spring practice will culminate with the annual G-Day Game on April 20 (2 p.m., ESPN).
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