New Dawg on campus: UGA-bound McConkey uses uncertain spring to prepare for freshman season

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North Murray High School's Ladd McConkey outruns defenders during a 2019 first-round Class 3A playoff game in Chatsworth.

 

Ladd McConkey may not be at his new football home yet, but the former North Murray High School star is training like he is.

McConkey was a three-star recruit who signed with the University of Georgia in February as a part of the 2020 recruiting class, ranked first nationally by both Rivals and 247 Sports

Most of Georgia’s college campuses have been closed to students since mid-March when the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the United States. After a spring of uncertainty, McConkey will finally set foot on campus again to begin workouts in a matter of days. The SEC recently approved June 8 as the date for its student-athletes to return.

“The big thing, coming out of basketball season, I was really light practicing and playing and everything,” said McConkey, a starting guard on the Mountaineers basketball team. “Coming out of that, I wanted to gain weight and get back to where I want to be.”

McConkey’s former coach, North Murray High School head football coach Preston Poag, said he has no doubt McConkey is putting in the offseason work to put himself in a position to succeed.

“We demand hard work at our program, and he was a hard worker,” Poag said. “Some people would just do it when we made them, but he would do extra beyond that. He’s got a great work ethic, and he’s a fine young man. I wish I had more Ladds.”

McConkey lined up at quarterback, defensive back, punter, punt returner and kick returner for North Murray in 2019, but the majority of that time on offense in his senior season was spent behind center.

Playing quarterback treated McConkey well at North Murray — he passed for 1,771 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns as the signal caller in 2019. He’s spent most of the spring working toward his expected role at Georgia of wide receiver. McConkey played that position prior to transitioning to quarterback.

McConkey’s athletic ability would have made him a dominant player in high school at almost any position, but Georgia coaches feel he’s best suited to make an impact as a receiver, McConkey said. High school coaches often play their top athletes at quarterback simply to have the ball in their hands as much as possible, and many transition to a new positive in college.

“When you look at attributes of a good football player, Ladd has a lot of them,” Poag said.

To help that transition, McConkey is working with former UGA wide receiver and Atlanta Falcon Terrence Edwards, who operates a training academy near Atlanta. Edwards, who played at Georgia from 1999-2002, is the school's career-leader in receiving yards (3,093) and receptions (204).

“He’s really helped me,” McConkey said. “I didn’t get to do a whole lot of receiver drills throughout the year, so I’ve been brushing up on that."

McConkey enters a crowded wide receiver room at UGA with plenty to prove. Georgia returns last season’s leading receiver in George Pickens as well as regular contributors Dominick Blaylock and Demetris Robertson. The Bulldogs also signed five receivers, including McConkey, in the 2020 class. The other four are all listed as four-star recruits.

The days of Zoom video conferences with position coaches will soon be replaced with in-person workouts and meetings. McConkey plans to report to campus for the start of workouts.

“Really, I just try to stay mentally sharp,” McConkey said. “Not being on campus, you really have to focus in. When we get there, it’s really going to be ‘go, go, go.’ When you get there, you’re either going to know it or not.”

McConkey said he’s not nervous about finally getting to return to campus, he’s just ready to get started.

“I’m more anxious than anything, I’m just ready to get there and settle in,” he said.

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