Prepared for the storm: Georgia's receivers ready to fill Brock Bowers' void
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Prepared for the storm: Georgia’s receivers ready to fill Brock Bowers’ void

Ladd McConkey
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Three-peats in sports are rare for a reason. Although consistency and preparation are crucial to championship-winning teams, unpredictable elements like injuries can often set them back in ways they can’t rebound. Yet, if any team is poised to face these challenges, it’s UGA.

The Georgia Bulldogs find themselves at one of those significant roadblocks this season, facing the daunting task of replacing the irreplaceable. Brock Bowers’ injury, which will sideline him for 4-6 weeks, poses a significant challenge to the Bulldogs’ offensive game plan.

Perhaps the most complete player in college football, Bowers’ absence is felt in both receiving and blocking roles. But Georgia’s depth and strategy might be the keys to keeping their championship hopes alive.

Under Kirby Smart, the focus is rarely on spotlighting a single player on either side of the football. He prefers giving many players ample playtime and snaps to foster depth, even if it sometimes means individual statistics might be less impressive.

This approach gears them up for challenging moments. Yet this season, Brock Bowers took on an even more significant role than usual. Not just because he is the top college football tight end in history but because scenarios made this the only option.

Bowers became an invaluable asset for Carson Beck, who was finding his feet as the starting quarterback. UGA also faced the challenge of assimilating two critical transfer receivers unfamiliar with their playbook while managing without their top receiver from the previous season for the first five games. Additionally, another pivotal receiver had to juggle responsibilities as a running back due to injuries in that position.

While Bowers might be the shining star, Georgia’s depth has always been its superpower. The array of talent at the Bulldogs’ disposal ensures that while one star may be dimmed temporarily, others are ready to light up the field.

Ladd McConkey: The Pacesetter

Leading the charge for UGA last season was Ladd McConkey. His impressive stats speak for themselves: 58 receptions, 762 yards, and 7 touchdowns. While Ladd may not often post staggering numbers, his reliability sets him apart. Expect him to average between 70-80 yards per game for the remainder of the season.

Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint: The Unsung Hero

Marcus has been one of the most improved players from the previous season. Though he may not always grab the headlines, his contribution to the Bulldogs is immense. This season, he has notched 18 catches for 333 yards. His ability to deliver in clutch situations stands out, making him an invaluable asset, especially in tight games. Moreover, the bulk of Bowers’ production (31 for 434 yards) has been between the numbers, and Marcus is most poised to make up some of those numbers.

Dominic Lovett: Finding His Groove

Transitioning from leading Mizzou’s receiving corps last season with an impressive 56 receptions for 846 yards, Dominic has faced the dual challenges of acclimating to a new playbook and developing chemistry with a new quarterback.

Lovett had his best game as a Bulldog last week with a 9-catch, 72-yard performance against Vandy. Look for UGA to depend more on him in the yards-after-catch department, where Bowers excels. Lovett has 31 receptions for 282, with 178 of those yards coming after the catch, trailing only Bowers this season for the Dawgs.

Rara Thomas: The Transfer Talent

Coming off a strong season at Mississippi State, where he registered 44 catches for 626 yards and seven touchdowns, Rara is another transfer finding his footing at UGA. Despite the challenge of navigating a new playbook, he’s amassed 16 catches for 256 yards so far this season. While his numbers will improve, his most significant increase will likely be in the red zone. I expect Bobo to call on Rara more frequently in the red zone to compensate for some of Brock’s output.

Dillon Bell: The Versatile Playmaker

Bell’s multifaceted skills make him a unique asset. Not limited to receiving, with his 12 catches for 106 yards, Bell also contributes to the ground game, recording 21 rushes for 111 yards this season. Given his diverse skill set, expect him to touch the ball in various capacities. I am projecting for him to get 5+ total touches per game between passing and running the football for the remainder of the regular season.

Oscar Delp’s Rising Role

Oscar Delp, the sophomore tight end, is the next man up. Witnessing Bowers’ techniques and strategies for the past two seasons has been an invaluable learning experience for Delp. He has been up and down this season with 13 receptions for 160 yards while trying to fill the gap that Darnell Washington left behind. However, Bowers’s spot is a much better fit for his skill set. Don’t be surprised to see Delp stay in the 45-55 receiving yards per game range.

Fresh Faces and Untapped Potential:

The depth chart behind Delp boasts young talent ready to be unleashed. Freshmen Lawson Luckie and Pearce Spurlin offer promising prospects. Luckie showcased his potential during spring practice but suffered an early ankle setback. His debut against Kentucky and availability during the Auburn match further solidify the Bulldogs’ tight end depth. I expect Lawson to have at least two games where he makes crucial plays in pivotal moments.

Can Someone Rise From the Ashes

Arian Smith and Malaki Mews are likely the top contenders. Despite showing promise the two previous seasons, with an impressive average of 30 yards per reception over the last two seasons, totaling 300 yards from 10 receptions, Smith has been somewhat underwhelming as a wide receiver this season. After a promising beginning, his presence in the rotation has diminished.

Mews began the season on a high, recording six receptions for 102 yards in the first two games. However, since then, his numbers have dwindled, with only four catches for 18 yards. The potential is there, and the hope is he finds his rhythm again, especially given the additional opportunities in Bowers’ absence.

Conclusion

While there are legitimate concerns, the passing game will not experience a drop. The big question for me is in the running game. Bowers’ prowess wasn’t limited to catching passes. An elite blocker, he played an instrumental role in the traditional run game and quick screens. His absence in this capacity cannot be underestimated, and the Bulldogs will need a collective effort to maintain their blocking effectiveness.

While Bowers’ shoes are indeed large ones to fill, the Bulldogs have showcased time and again their resilience and adaptability. With a strategic committee approach, tapping into their depth, and leveraging their strengths, Georgia is primed to weather the storm.

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