Georgia experimenting with the slot WR position

Rebecca Wright/The Red & Black

University of Georgia wide receiver Ahkil Crumpton practices on Thursday in Athens. Crumpton is a senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Of all the receivers on Georgia’s roster, senior Ahkil Crumpton most fits the prototype of a slot receiver.

Crumpton stands at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, and he might be quicker than he is fast. All of which adds up to a slot receiver one can expect to see anywhere in college football.

But Georgia has many options when it comes to who it can play in the slot, a versatility that could pay big dividends when the season kicks off against Austin Peay on Sept. 1.

First, there’s the improvement of Crumpton himself. Having arrived as a transfer shortly before the start of fall camp last season, Crumpton said it took him until about week seven to fully grow comfortable with his knowledge of the playbook and the speed of Division I football.

“This year I’m much more relaxed,” Crumpton said. “Obviously, year two, I’m becoming a smoother player, everything slows down. I’m getting acclimated right now.”

The comfort showed toward the end of last season. Crumpton hauled in a 78-yard touchdown pass against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs’ longest pass of the season.

Also available in the slot is junior Mecole Hardman, who caught 25 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns last season. So far in Georgia’s fall practices, Hardman has been receiving reps with the outside receivers, something Crumpton said the team has been experimenting with to get both players on the field at the same time.

When Hardman has been outside at practice, freshman Kearis Jackson has been taking second-team reps at the slot position. He is bigger than both Crumpton and Hardman at 6 feet, 200 pounds, which Crumpton said can benefit the Bulldogs either in the slot or on the outside.

How much Jackson can help the team, however, depends on how quickly he learns the playbook, among other things. Crumpton said he’s doing what he can to help all the freshmen receivers with something he struggled with last year.

“I feel like we’re only as strong as our weakest link, and we don’t have any weakest links right now,” Crumpton said. “Me being a senior, I feel like I have to help my younger brothers catch onto the plays and help us win.”

But that’s just the receivers. Georgia and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney also have the luxury of being able to split out tight ends in the slot when they want to.

Obviously, the tight ends are bigger than any receiver the Bulldogs can put in the slot. Junior Isaac Nauta checks in at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, while fellow junior Charlie Woerner is 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. There is also a pair of 6-foot-6 freshmen in John FitzPatrick and Luke Ford.

“It’s a big body, and if it’s on a (defensive back), that’s definitely a mismatch,” Woerner said. “I think it helps out and diversifies our offense a lot.”

Although Woerner said his position group also loves blocking when attached to the end of the line of scrimmage, he did say they like being split out because there’s usually a better chance of a ball being thrown their way. He mentioned the heights of FitzPatrick and Ford as something that could terrorize opposing defenses.

“I think once they really get to know the offense better, we can split them out on the 5-yard line and throw a fade ball up to them,” Woerner said. “It’s hard to stop when a guy’s that tall.”

While defenses won’t know who will be lined up in the slot from one play to the next, one thing is certain: Chaney has a lot of formations and combinations to choose from.

“Chaney’s a scientist with it,” Crumpton said. “He’s experimenting stuff, trying stuff out. We’ll see how it works.”

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit www.redandblack.com/sports.

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