|Chris Conley Scores (Photo: Brant Sanderlin)|
Don’t look now Bulldog fans, but you may have the makings of a major play maker on your roster next season.
No, I’m not talking about Malcolm Mitchell (you already know he’s a gamer), or Michael Bennett (I told you about him a long time ago, remember?), and no, I don’t mean Rhett McGowan (although I did enjoy his big catch against Florida). No, I’m talking about Chris Conley; that other true freshman sensation who may have slid under the radar a bit.
In nine games, he has 13 catches, for 248 yards (19.08 ypc average), and two touchdowns. That’s more production, in less appearances, than the junior Marlon Brown. And while a fair percentage of Conley’s numbers came courtesy of his performance against New Mexico State, there can be no denying the fact that he has better than average ability as a wide receiver.
He’s filled in ably, when called upon, and his size, body control, and vertical leaping ability has made him a dependable option on third downs—where he’s made a couple of drive saving catches this year (recall that big 18-yard grab against Florida that sealed the game for Georgia).
When Conley arrived on campus last winter, no one expected him to be an impact player—at least not in 2011—because most figured Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten, and Michael Bennett (not to mention Orson Charles and Aron White) were destined to provide all the good hands insurance Aaron Murray would need.
However, the loss of both Caleb King and Washaun Ealey early meant the running game was going to take a major hit and the passing game was going to have to step it up a few more notches. However, injuries and suspensions to key players meant Conley had the opportunity to make something happen sooner rather than later and he’s played an essential role in the offense—even in his limited appearances—ever since.
The result for Georgia fans is an early glimpse at the future of the wide receiver—post Marlon Brown and Tavarres King—as Conley has proven he has the goods.
First, as already mentioned, he’s got great size (6’2″, 203lbs). He goes up strong for the catch and isn’t afraid to get physical if need be, and his vertical ability rivals that of any defensive back he’s likely to go up against.
He has strong hands which plays a key role in his ability to fight off any opportunistic safeties looking to snatch one away from him, and his fundamentals are impressive when you consider how quickly he’s adjusted to the expectations of playing at this level.
His catch at Florida, in the waning moments of the game, left the biggest impression on me because when you consider the gravity of that moment, and what was riding on that catch, it shows a maturity beyond his class that he was able to make that play with such confidence—and trust me that wasn’t an easy catch to make. I knew then that Georgia was looking at a special player who could become one of their better possession receivers down the line.
The mere fact that Conley’s redshirt was bypassed this season in favor of letting him play now should tell you plenty about the kind of outlook the coaching staff has on his future.
Conley will have a bright future at Georgia, just you wait and see.