Class of 2020 Pass-Catchers Look to Make their Mark in 2021

The group of receivers brought to Athens in the 2020 recruiting cycle will have the chance to step up in 2021 and make their impact on the program.

Heading into the spring, Georgia was boasting one of the most talented receiving corps in the country. Rising junior George Pickens was at the top of the group as the go-to guy for quarterback JT Daniels and the Georgia offense in critical situations. Losing a player like Pickens could have derailed Georgia teams of the past, like the loss of Lawrence Cager did to the 2019 Georgia team. 

Following the inconsistent and poor passing attack that was the 2019 Georgia offense, head coach Kirby Smart opted for a change at the offensive coordinator position and shook things up, something that his mentor Nick Saban did a few years earlier when his offense was getting stale. 

It would have been easy for Smart to replace James Coley with another familiar face from his past. After all, the coaching carousel in college football has historically been a "buddy system." It's all about who you know. 

However, instead of opting for familiarity in his hiring of a new offensive coordinator, Smart added Todd Monken, an innovative mind who had been around the block in college football and most recently the National Football League. Monken's style of offense was something foreign to the history of Georgia football; it was predicated on a strong passing attack; throwing the ball 30-40 times was normal. It was the polar opposite of the offense Smart presided over in his first four years as Georgia head coach. 

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In Monken's first offseason in Athens, he was able to see an influx of talent coming in at the receiver position, including a highly-touted, athletic tight end. The class of 2020 looked destined to make sure that Georgia never had a problem at receiver again. 

Now, after completing their freshman seasons in Athens, those same players will have an opportunity to make a huge impact on the Georgia offense. However, the absence of Pickens leaves a hole at the top of the depth chart, one that two former four-stars, Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, will look to fill.

Burton saw extensive time as a true freshman, playing in all 10 games while totaling 27 catches for 407 yards and three touchdowns. Burton quickly won the top spot as the Z-receiver opposite Pickens, proving to be a threat wherever he lined up on the field. He now becomes a potential ace in the hole for the Georgia offense, much like Pickens was a year ago. 

While Rosemy-Jacksaint saw action in six of the 10 games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury on a 32-yard touchdown reception against Florida, the former St. Thomas Aquinas receiver showed great promise against Florida filling in for an injured Pickens before he was sidelined with a gruesome ankle injury that won't see him return to action until fall camp. 

Even without seeing him throughout the spring, it didn't take long after the conclusion of spring practice for the rising sophomore to excite the fan base when a video of an impressive one-handed catch was posted by Rosemy-Jacksaint. He will be in an intense battle for the X-receiver spot with Burton, Justin Robinson and even freshman Adonai Mitchell, who burst onto the scene this spring.

Then there is speedster Arian Smith, who flashed his insane track speed in the final four games after missing much of the season with an injury. Smith's track speed enables him to line up everywhere, including at the Z position as an outside receiver, allowing him to blow past defensive backs.

Add in dynamic tight end Darnell Washington, who could turn into Daniels' favorite third-down target in 2021. Washington's presence in Georgia's passing game and in the running game as a blocker grew throughout the season. In addition, Washington's 6-foot-7, 280-pound frame provides a massive target over the middle of the field, while also adding the ability to make plays flexed out as a receiver instead of the traditional in-line stance where we saw him line up early in the season.

The future is bright at receiver and at tight end with the class of 2020 having a big opportunity right out of the gate with the season opener against Clemson to fill the void of Pickens. 

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