March 31, 2011

WRs need to step up

Ask any of Georgia's wide receivers and they'll be quick to tell you that position coach Tony Ball isn't one to sugarcoat any answers.

He'll tell it like it is; even if the truth hurts.

Such was the case during a post-practice interview Tuesday at the Butts-Mehre Building.

When asked what has stood out to him over the Bulldogs' first five practices of the spring Ball paused, pondered the question quietly before responding with some carefully chosen words.

"What has stood out to me the first week is we've got a long way to go from a toughness standpoint," Ball said. "We've got guys with the ability, but we've got to get mentally tougher and fundamentally consistent. But this is typical in the spring; it's not something unusual."

Replacing A.J. Green and Kris Durham certainly doesn't make Ball's job any easier.

Last year, the two combined for 89 catches and 1,507 yards with 12 touchdowns. The rest of the Georgia's wide receivers (including the transferring Logan Gray) caught 59 balls for 828 yards and six scores.

"That's a lot of experience. Now, you've got this group that's here who have played some but they've never been in that role of being the guy," Ball said. "So, we've just got to make sure we at least get better, get better fundamentally and get more consistent. Guys have to learn how to get to that point."

Ball said it wouldn't hurt for him to see a little "want-to" with his receivers either. He has in some cases.

"I'm never going to say 'be them.' But I see it in some. I need to see it in the others, in all of them, especially the scholarship guys. But I do see it in some. Like the first couple of days, Israel Troupe is really trying to do the little things and is making some plays," Ball said. "Tavarres King is doing some little things, making some plays, so you're seeing those things from some guys but we need more depth."

Ball isn't kidding.

Besides King and Troupe, Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten, Michael Bennett and freshman Chris Conley are the only scholarship receivers at Ball's disposal until the rest of the freshmen arrive in June.

But just because numbers are low doesn't mean Ball is changing his approach in regards to the amount of patience he'll show this spring. There will be none.

"No, you can't be patient, you can never be patient. We're not dealing with freshmen here right now. Well, we've got Chris Conley so you've got to be patient with him, but you've got to be demanding, even with the freshmen you've got to be demanding," Ball said. "So no, I can't be patient."

Ball did have some positive words to say about Conley and Brown.

"I think (Conley) is doing a great job. He's very attentive, conscientious, he learns and wants to do well and he'll work hard," Ball said. "He's just got to continue that path, but I think he's doing fine."

Ball believes Brown is starting to come along as well.

In two years, Brown has managed to catch just 13 passes for 133 yards and one touchdown following a ballyhooed prep career at Harding Academy.

But despite his struggles, Ball said Brown is starting to see the light.

"Marlon is doing some good things. He struggled early in practice three and then today (Tuesday). But I'm starting to see him run better, which as a receiver you've got to be able to run and I'm starting to see him do that," he said. "Marlon certainly knows what to do so we can move him around; he can play a number of positions and I'm liking what I see in him."

However, as Ball quickly points out, each of his receivers still has much to improve upon. That definitely includes Wooten, who despite playing in 11 games, only caught seven balls for 41 yards following a freshman campaign which saw him catch 10 for 197.

"He's (Wooten) got to keep working. Right now if we lined up in two wides, T.K is over there and he would be behind TK. He's got to pick it up. He's got to give us the challenge at that position, give us the depth at that position," Ball said. "He's one play away from being a starter, so we need him to pick it up and be consistent practice after practice."

Come June, freshmen Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott Wesley and Sanford Seay will join the competition but Ball is making no predictions on what their immediate future might hold.

"You've got to see because you don't know what a player's comfort level is. How well they transit from home to college, you don't know. You're going to have to see and athletically how well they can handle themselves," he said. "You bring every class in with the idea that you're going to get guys ready to play and take them as far as they can go."

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