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Is Ladd McConkey Georgia's Biggest Freshman Sleeper?

July 7, 2020
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After signing an outstanding trio of receivers in the 2019 class, including star wide-out George Pickens and contributor Dominick Blaylock, the Bulldogs stepped it up a notch in the 2020 class, signing five talented receivers and adding quality depth to the position. 

First, you have four-star Jermaine Burton‍, who was one of the most complete receivers in the entire 2020 class. He has elite speed, elite ball skills, good size, and he’s a natural route-runner. He checks all the boxes and is expected to push for solid playing time as a freshman.

Then you have four-star, Marcus Rosemy‍. A bigger receiver from Florida at 6-foot-2 195-pounds who can make big plays on the outside. He’s a hard worker who changes directions well for a bigger receiver. He’s physical, can break tackles after the catch, and can block on the perimeter in the run game.

Four-star Arian Smith‍ brings the speed. He ran a 10.39 in the 100-meter last year and has the speed to take it the distance every time he has the ball. If he can work on his consistency catching the football, he’ll be another guy who could see the field as a freshman. 

Justin Robinson‍ will bring more size and physicality to the group. At 6-foot-4 200-pounds, Robinson is back to full health and will give Georgia another red-zone and sideline weapon in the passing game. Like Rosemy, Robinson should have no problem blocking on the outside in the run game. 

And lastly, you have three-star Ladd McConkey‍. He earned his offer from the Bulldogs late in the process after head coach Kirby Smart went to watch him play basketball. McConkey took a late visit to Tennessee, his childhood favorite school, but the Vols decided not to extend an offer.

Sources say McConkey took that personally, and the Bulldogs were able to easily secure his commitment after that. 

“They (Tennessee) never offered him,” one source told Dawg Post.  “They were pretty forthright with him. They told him that they had a couple of guys ahead of him on their board, and if those guys decided to commit, that there wouldn’t be a spot for him. He left the visit from Tennessee with a sour taste in his mouth. I honestly think that even if they had offered, he would have chosen Georgia. It meant a lot to him that head coach Kirby Smart believed in him enough to offer when he didn’t have any other big options.”

The Vols turned down a pretty special player if you look at the film. The big-time athlete played quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, kick-return, and punt-return for his North Murray (GA) team last year. 

“I think the thing that makes Ladd a special receiver is his ability to stop and start in such a short amount of time. In my opinion, the biggest thing to making a great receiver is being able to run full speed and stop on a dime,” North Murray (GA) receivers coach, Nich Bartley told Dawg Post.

“He is also a natural leader. People naturally gravitate and follow him. He’s a true competitor with an extreme desire to win. There were several games in our season last year where he absolutely willed us to victory. He just has that type of attitude. I really believe that UGA fans will be surprised with the caliber of player he is. I’ve vouched for his ability time and time again because I truly believe he will bring something to the Georgia roster that they don’t have right now. In my opinion, Ladd and Jermaine Burton are very comparable,” Bartley added.

The senior film is outstanding. He’s so elusive with the ball in his hands, and it felt like he just played at a higher speed than just about every defense he played against. He’s got the speed, agility, and big-play potential to make an impact in Athens. 

So why didn’t the offers come in earlier?

“He (McConkey) was just so small,” Bartley explained.  “He didn’t start growing until he was a junior. When he came in as a freshman he was tiny. It was always pretty evident that he was superior athletically to anyone we had, but it was a matter of whether or not he was going to grow. He’s always been big into basketball too so that didn’t help. He’s played AAU his entire life so he didn’t go to many camps until the summer before his senior year.”

He’s still not the biggest guy at 6-foot-0 175-pounds, but for someone with his speed and agility, his size is just fine right now. 

“He played receiver for us his first three years,” Bartley said.  “His junior year he had enough size that we decided to move him to the ‘Z’ receiver in our offense. But to be completely honest, we didn’t get him the ball in space enough. He didn’t really get the chance to showcase what he could do as a receiver. So, when we put him at QB and he’s touching the ball every play and scoring in every way possible, it’s easy to see how athletic he is.”

So how will McConkey fit into new UGA offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense?

With his ability to get open and create space, McConkey appears to be an ideal fit to play in the slot, allowing him to run quick routes underneath to create separation and make a big play after the catch.

“He’s definitely a prototypical slot for Monken’s style of offense,” Brantley said.  “He’s extremely, extremely intelligent. Playing QB will help him identify zones and know what’s going on in the defense. He will be able to get open in a man to man situation against any safety or linebacker, but he will also have the intelligence to know where to sit down in the soft spots in zone coverage.”

So he may not be 6-foot-4 like Justin Robinson. He may not have earned offers as a freshman like Jermaine Burton. He may not be as fast as Arian Smith, and he may not have played against the same competition that Marcus Rosemy did. 

In the end, there’s a lot to like about McConkey’s game, and his versatility could help him make more of an impact than many originally thought. 

So don’t sleep on Ladd McConkey. Jeremy Pruitt did, and he may pay the price for it one day. 

 

 
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