No longer is the chief goal to win playing time. After years of hearing its collective name dragged through the mud, sometimes rightfully, the corps now works with a common sense of purpose – make its detractors eat their words.
“We’re all in it together, no matter who is catching the ball, no matter who it is thrown to, no matter who has the touchdowns,” senior Mikey Henderson said. “We’re behind every guy, trying to pick every guy up.”
The receivers need a pick-me-up. They haven’t had a breakout season in Richt’s six years, and last year was no different. The wide receivers caught four touchdown passes and at least tripled that number in drops.
“I do expect our receivers to play better,” Richt said. “It’s time for these guys to play not only good but great.”
Georgia’s receivers combined to catch 97 passes last year, 15 more than Vanderbilt’s Earl Bennett. The only way to turn things around, they have decided, is to do it together.
“There is no jealousy among the bunch,” said junior Mohamed Massaquoi, who had 30 catches for 366 yards last year and is the team’s leading returning receiver. “We’re all brothers. We all hang out. I feel that we’re one of the closest positions based on what we’ve gone through. Everybody has a similar story.”
That story: loads of talent, brief flashes of ability and head-scratching bouts of ineffectiveness.
“Yeah we’re ready to prove something,” senior A.J. Bryant said. “Yeah, we’re so ready to prove everybody wrong, to prove that we can play with anybody in the country.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford can “absolutely” see a difference in the wide receivers this fall, he said.
“Their effort is up. Their confidence is up,” he said. “That’s what you want from any position.”
The receivers haven’t reached the great level established by Richt, Massaquoi said.
“We’re not there by a long shot. Saying that, we’ve had a good camp,” he said. “We’re not quite where we want to be but the future is bright for us. We’re starting to grow, not to say we might not do a couple of the same things, but we’re able to deal with a little better this year.”
As many as 10 receivers have performed well enough this fall to earn playing time, senior Sean Bailey said. Bailey and Henderson are penciled in as Georgia’s starters, but Michael Moore and Tony Wilson also have been singled out by Richt for their performance. Massaquoi, Bryant, Kenneth Harris and Kris Durham also are in the mix. True freshmen Aron White, Walter Hill and Israel Troupe also have a chance, Bailey said.
Whatever the combination ends up being, there will be only one goal, the players said. Stop all the talking.
“It’s something we have a chip on our shoulder about,” Bailey said. “We get tired of hearing it, but the only way to shut it up is to go out there and show it on the field. We’re ready to do that. We’re ready to step up to the plate.”