Coming off a freshman season where he was third in receiving yards for Georgia, considering the state of the wide receiver room in Athens, Jermaine Burton is expected to play a pivotal role in 2021.
The injury to George Pickens at the beginning of spring practice meant that Burton, the rising sophomore, would be the No. 1 option for Georgia next season. That fact didn't bother many after seeing Burton record a career-high eight receptions, 197 yards and two touchdowns in JT Daniels' debut against Mississippi State.
The chemistry between the two California kids was an igniter for the Georgia offense that would help the Dawgs put together four straight wins to close out an 8-2 season.
Coming out of Calabasas, Calif., as a four-star receiver committed to the then- defending national champions LSU, expectations were high for the 15th-ranked receiver in the 2020 class. Burton's UGA story began on signing day as the Cali kid flipped from the Tigers to the Dawgs. Burton's switch came only days after Georgia finished the deal by getting him to Athens for an official visit five days before signing day.
Burton's signature was a huge win for Georgia following their dismantling loss to LSU only weeks prior in the SEC Championship, where Heisman-winning quarterback Joe Burrow picked apart the highly-touted Georgia defense.
Following a disappointing 2019 season where the Georgia offense clearly showed regression in its one year under offensive coordinator James Coley, head coach Kirby Smart brought in "Air Raid guru" Todd Monken to reinvent the Georgia offense, and he would do just that with the help of Burton.
Burton's freshman season ended with 404 yards receiving on 27 catches and three touchdowns. While those numbers don't crown the next Jarvis Landry or Odell Beckham Jr. as many predicted, it was the film that distinguished Burton from the rest of Georgia's receiver room. Burton looked to be one of the most polished route- runners on Georgia's roster as a true freshman in 2020.
Playing most of his snaps as the Z-receiver for the Dawgs in 2020, Burton brought the necessary toolset to play as an outside receiver and on the inside as a slot receiver. This versatility in the positioning of receivers is something we have seen more of on Georgia's roster since the hiring of Monken.
Since the addition of Arik Gilbert to the receiver room, it helps take much of the weight of the Georgia passing game off Burton's shoulders. While he will still train at both outside receiver positions, Burton looks likely to stay put as the Z-receiver this season alongside former LSU Tiger Arik Gilbert or George Pickens if he is healthy.
His expansive route tree and speed allow him to be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. In addition, having to deal with bigger, taller receivers in Gilbert and tight end Darnell Washington will give Burton more one-on-one coverage.
Burton was an asset as an underrated deep threat for Georgia; his success taking the top off a defense was often overshadowed by the 50-50 balls Pickens would haul in from Daniels. With Pickens sidelined for a good while, expect Burton to take on Pickens' role of being the constant threat to take the head off a defense.
Washington and Gilbert will provide Georgia with explosive plays over the middle of the field, whether it's Gilbert turning a five-yard slant into an explosive play or Washington getting matched up with linebackers and smaller defensive backs. Burton will be the threat downfield while allowing others to make explosive plays in the quick game.
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