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Looking Back - 2018 Receivers - How Did Georgia Do?

Jason Brassell

The University of Georgia is known for having some of the best running backs in the history of college football. From Herschel Walker to Nick Chubb, there's no college football program around that can compare to the excellence that has come from that position in Athens, Georgia. Each player that has come through and toted the rock for the Georgia Bulldogs did it with their own unique capabilities. Each recruit that comes in understands the importance of continuing the tradition set by the absolute beasts that have come before him. Being labeled with the moniker RB-U hascertainly had it's obvious advantages, but why are we talking about running backs in a story about the 2018 receiver class?

That's because being labeled RB-U also has it's disadvantages. Being known as a program with a tradition of running backs can have an adverse effect on receiver recruiting. You best believe other programs are negative recruiting in every way possible when trying to keep the top receivers away from the Georgia Bulldogs. It also doesn't help that we get so far ahead of most teams that we're able to just sit on the ball the second half of games. Kirby Smart is my favorite coach that we've ever had, but that is my main pet peeve about him. I have found myself screaming at the television for him to throw the ball down the field in the fourth quarter of games that are in te bag. I understand that you're more prone to turnovers and all that mumbo jumbo, but sometimes you have to let the kids play ball. Some of these highly ranked receivers care about stats and we're going to have to show them that our receivers can put up stats. Just look at Brock Bowers and the tight end position and how recruting is going for that position now. I understand that there's only one ball to go around, but I'll leave it at that for now and get off my soapbox.

Despite being known for the running game and despite the negative recruiting, the Dawgs have been able to bring in some very talented receivers along the way. One of those players is Kearis Jackson, an in-stste prospect from Pech County in the 2018 class. Jackson has become a key figure for the UGA football program on and off the field. He has established himself as a leader in the locker room and the Athens community. The proof is in the pudding, as he was recently named to the Wuerfell Trophy Watch List. According to their website, the Wuerfell Trophy honors college football athletes who are serving others, while also achieving greatness on the football field and in the classroom. He was also recently named All-SEC first team as a return specialist by the media attending the SEC Media Days event. Jackson was ranked as the #23 receiver and #130 overall recruit in the 2018 class according to the 247sports composite rankings. Tommy Bush is a 6'5 receiver who the Dawgs recruited heavily and signed in the 2018 class. We actually turned multiple recruits at multiple positions down in favor of Bush. The Texas native combined speed with his height to become the #37 receiver and #196 overall in the 2018 class.

So how have these players done on the field compared to other top receiver targets and highly ranked receiver prospects in their class?

Kearis Jackson 4*, #130 overall, #23 WR UGA College 57 787 13.8 4
Tommy Bush 4*, #196 overall, #37 WR UGA College 4 44 11.0 0
Justin Shorter 5*, #8 overall, #1 WR PennSt/Fla College 81 975 12.0 6
Amon-Ra St. Brown 5*, #11 overall, #2 WR USC DET, Rd 4, Pk 112 178 2270 12.8 16
Terrace Marshall 5*, #13 overall, #3 WR LSU CAR, Rd 2, Pk 59 106 1594 15.0 23
Derion Kendrick (CB) 5*, #26 overall, #4 WR Clem/UGA LAR, Rd 6, Pk 212 0 0 0.0 0
Jaylen Waddle 4*, #39 overall, #5 WR Ala MIA, Rd 1, Pk 6 106 1999 18.9 17
Ja'Marr Chase 4*, #84 overall, #15 WR LSU CIN, Rd 1, Pk 5 107 2093 19.6 23
Matthew Hill 4*, #92 overall, #17 WR Aub College 8 46 5.8 0
Alontae Taylor (DB) 4*, #122 overall, #21 WR Tenn NO, Rd 2, Pk 49 0 0 0.0 0
Josh Vann 4*, #146 overall, #25 WR USCe College 90 1056 11.7 7
Elijah Moore 4*, #203 overall, #38 WR Miss NYJ, Rd 2, Pk 34 189 2441 12.9 16
Rashod Bateman 4*, #367 overall, #61 WR Minn BAL, Rd 1, Pk 27 147 2395 16.3 19
^^^Rank according to 247sports composite rankings
Punt Returner 39 287 7.4 0      
Kick Returner 17 414 24.4 0      

As mentioned above, Jackson can't be judged on just his receiving stats alone. He has been a key contributer in the return game and a team leader the past couple of years. His contributions on and off the field was a big part of Georgia winning the national championship last season. While he saw spot duty as a freshman, he tied for the team lead in receptions with George Pickens at 36 in 2020. He did see a reduced role on offense last season, finishing with 16 receptions for 194 yards and a touchdown. Jackson seems to have a chip on his shoulder heading into 2022 and looks to be a difference maker at receiver for the Dawgs. Tommy Bush saw very limited playing time in three games in three years at UGA. He started the first two games of the season last year for North Texas before suffering a season ending injury.

As you can see above, eight of the players noted above were drafted to the NFL, including three first rounders and three second rounders. Derion Kendrick was listed as a receiver coming out of high school, but played exclusively at the cornerback position in college. Of course he ended up in Athens last season before being drafted by the Rams. Georgia battled Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee for Alontae Taylor for much of the recruiting cycle and I'm sure everyone knows about Pruitt's recruiting tactics by now. I'm not saying Taylor got paid to go to Knoxville, but he did want to play offense. It is well known that was the pitch from Tennesse. He was put on defense once they got him on campus, which obviously worked out well for Taylor.

There were four receivers from the above group that has more than 2000 yards receiving in their college career. Waddle was a yard short of 2000, while two others have over 1000 yards receiving. The only ones from this group that had/have less than 1000 yards receiving in their college career are the UGA signees, the two defensive players (both drafted), Justin Shorter at 975 yards with another season to play at Florida, and Matthew Hill. Jackon has a chance to break the 1000 yard mark this season, while Hill was moved to defense after transferring to South Florida.

This was Kirby Smart's second full recruiting class after the 2016 Richt to Smart transition class. It includes some absolutely huge misses at the receiver position. We were somewhat in on Shorter, but not enough to say we really missed on him. LSU hit the jackpot in this cycle with both Marshall and Chase being in-state recruits. The same goes for Southern Cal and St. Brown. We talked about Kendrick and Taylor turning into big time defensive players. Waddle was obviouosly a big get for Alabama. 

Where the Dawgs went wrong is at the bottom end of this list. We obviously only took two receivers this cycle, which you do not want to happen in this day and age of offensive football. I'm not saying that we should have taken anyone instead of who we got, but a couple of them would have been great additions. Josh Vann was an in-state recruit that was very interested in playing for the Dawgs. We did recruit him some towards the end, but he was a priority recruit for the Gamecocks for some time. He and Kearis are actually pretty similar players and have had pretty similar career paths and numbers. Even in hindsight, you can't really fault Georgia for not pushing hard here. 

The Dawgs actually had Elijah Moore committed from August 2017 until he flipped to Ole Miss on December 20, 2017. I'm not sure he would have ended up with 2400 yards receiving in Athens for a variety of reasons, but this is still a big miss. It's still not as big of a miss as Rashod Bateman. Even the most dedicated recruiting fanatics didn't hear his name until the very end of the recruiting cycle, but the talented receiver was dominating Friday nights right under our noses at Tift County. Georgia did come in with a late offer in December and Bateman heavily considered taking a late official visit to Athens, but he had been committed to Minnesota since June 2017. He kept his word with the Golden Gophers and never visited UGA. As mentioned with Moore, he may not have hauled in 2400 yards receiving with the Dawgs, but it's still a BIG MISS. Probably one of the biggest misses of the Kirby Smart era.

It's just hard to complain too much about recruiting, as Kirby Smart and his staffs have mostly dominated on the recruiting trail. It also makes it easier seeing groups like this with that national championship trophy sitting in Athens, Georgia. Most fans will probably forget about this article and the players we should have gotten when the Dawgs come running out of the tunnel on September 3rd and the announcers introduce them as the DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPION GEORGIA BULLDOGS!

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