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Tyler Simmons, a wide receiver from Powder Springs, Georgia, turns and runs the ball during the University of Georgia vs. Middle Tennessee University football game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. 

In the Sept. 8 game against then-No. 24 South Carolina, three different Georgia running backs scored touchdowns en route to a 41-17 victory. Against Middle Tennessee, it was the receivers’ turn to find the end zone.

Mecole Hardman, Jeremiah Holloman, Riley Ridley and Jayson Stanley each caught touchdown passes in Georgia’s 49-7 blowout win against the Blue Raiders, exhibiting a competitiveness at the position that Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has been talking about since before the season began. Ten different players were targeted by either Justin Fields or Jake Fromm, and only two of those 10 aren’t listed on the depth chart as a receiver.

“That’s a testament to how many weapons we have on this offense,” Hardman said. “We have so many skill players that can get the ball to make things happen and get in the end zone for the score, and I think that shows that you can’t just keyhole one receiver.”

Senior Terry Godwin was targeted twice but had no receptions, and his absence as a difference-maker in the game allowed room for some other names to reach important milestones. Holloman caught his first touchdown pass as a Bulldog in the first quarter on an 11-yard pass from Fromm, and Tyler Simmons scored his first touchdown on a 56-yard sweep play to begin the second quarter.

 

"We have so many skill players that can get the ball to make things happen and get in the end zone for the score." 

Mecole Hardman, Georgia wide receiver

 

Holloman also hauled in the longest pass of the day, as Fromm heaved the ball 65 yards downfield and the sophomore receiver rose up and caught it above the defender’s helmet.

“We’ve thrown a lot of balls to each other as far as seven-on-sevens over the summer and this fall camp,” Fromm said. “So me and my guys are very familiar with each other and it’s awesome to kind of see it clicking and working in the game. Everyone’s buying into the system.”

The display was the most telling representation of the 2018 receiving corps to date, and it came in a match where Georgia was already running the ball with consistency and did not need to emphasize the passing game. The Bulldogs had more rushing yards than they did passing, but the lone rushing touchdown before the fourth quarter (aside from Simmons’) came on a Justin Fields 15-yard run on a designed passing play.

The rush from Simmons was the second-longest rush of the day, though, and the way it developed looked familiar to the junior wide receiver as he looked downfield. The wide receiver that is known for his ability to block said that he looked up and saw Riley Ridley blocking a defender on the outside, so he knew he was going to have a good shot at his first score. He was the second of the three wide receivers to score their first career touchdown on Saturday.

“Three years for me, four years for Jayson, two years for [Jeremiah Holloman],” Simmons said. “After all that blocking and everything, it’s definitely paying off. I feel like everything’s coming together.”

Georgia fans were poised to learn about the improvement of the team in areas like offensive line, defensive line and defensive backs, but the spread of attention among the receivers was the glaring takeaway.

The Bulldogs know the weapons they have in the backfield are dependable in terms of scoring from the red zone, but the dedication to finding receivers this week displays Smart’s intent to develop another dimension in a Bulldog offense that entered Saturday already averaging 43 points per game.

“We kind of knew that more receivers would be able to get involved today,” Holloman said. “But I mean at practice, all the way down to the threes, we rotate a lot. Everybody’s able to compete at a high level. So we’re pretty good.”

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