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Georgia Tech Receivers Ready for Showcase

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The wide receivers, for the Yellow Jackets, have been among those turning heads.

Seeing the opportunities increase is always a good thing for the wide receivers.
~Jalen Camp

For the last eleven years, Georgia Tech's wide receivers had different roles than most. Playing in the triple-option offense, perimeter players were largely asked to block, then capitalize on limited opportunities through the air. Though multiple wideouts advanced from Paul Johnson's scheme to the NFL, overall production was understandably modest. The Yellow Jackets, just once since 2012, have had a receiver with more than 25 grabs. With the hiring of Geoff Collins, the status quo has officially changed.

The excitement Collins has brought from a branding and marketing standpoint has been paralleled by a growing anticipation for the debut of a new offensive scheme. Over 21,000 fans showed up to Georgia Tech's spring game, with 50 total points scored and 324 passing yards compiled. From Collins to offensive coordinator Dave Pautenade to every player on the depth chart, the Yellow Jackets are undergoing a schematic transition as dramatic any in recent college football history.

Along with uncertainty around the change is an energy you can feel.  

"It's definitely been exciting. As soon as we saw who our offensive coordinator was, our head coach was, we kind of knew that that was coming," wide receiver Jalen Camp explained. "Our group has to be one of the most exciting ones on the whole team. Seeing the opportunities increase is always a good thing for the wide receivers." 

Lessons learned from the flexbone offense will remain intertwined as Georgia Tech moves forward. The Yellow Jackets will have proven blockers on the edge, a unit-wide ability that will help in the running game and on screen passes alike. Georgia Tech's wide receivers also have considerable experience facing man coverage and competing in jump ball situations. There is size and strength on the roster.     

"That offense made me a more physical wide receiver," Camp continued. "Because in that offense, you get a lot of one-on-ones, you are depended upon to block your guy. That offense helped me be more physical and learn how to be successful in the one-on-one matchups because that is mainly what you get in the triple option offense."

Literally and figuratively, spring practice came with important first steps on the Flats. Players familiarized themselves with new offensive concepts and standards, finding critical cohesion in terminology and scheme. After fruitful practice sessions, and the aforementioned spring game performance, Georgia Tech, regardless of outside opinions, enters the fall with both momentum and motivation. Both matter. 

The wide receivers, for the Yellow Jackets, have been among those turning heads. As much as a trio of quarterbacks have been the centerpiece of most off-season discussions, play on the perimeter, in terms of developing Georgia Tech's downfield passing game, will be just as important. So far, so good.    

"They were one of the biggest surprises for me throughout the spring," Collins nodded. "Our receivers are really, really talented. I was impressed every single day. The way they would go out there and win the 50-50 balls, the contested catches."

Camp, representing Georgia Tech at the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, is one leading the way. The Cumming-native has been a key tone-setter in the locker room, helping to reinforce the message Collins and his staff have been pushing. As the Yellow Jackets' leading returning receiver with eleven catches for 186 yards in 2018, Camp is set to be team's number one option. Already, that distinction comes with a very real application.  

"Jalen Camp, he earned the coveted number one jersey by the way he worked, the way he attacked every single thing he has done since we got here," Collins recognized. 

Kickoff approaching, Georgia Tech's wide receivers are working. Improving positional footwork, given the proliferation of route responsibilities, has been a consistent summer priority. Communication, repetition and specific training regimens have been important accelerators ahead of a high-profile season opener with defending national champion Clemson. The process continues.  

Though the quarterback situation has yet to be determined, the Yellow Jackets, as is the case at wide receiver, have more options there than most might think. 

"I think three of our top 25 players on entire roster are from our quarterback position. Being creative and being out of the box thinkers, how to package things for them to be successful, maybe even some packages where they are on the field at the same time," Collins detailed. "There are some exciting and innovative things that we are doing with that position. We got some talented guys there."

Overall offensive development will be a week-to-week progression; that said, the Yellow Jackets believe they are ready for the bright lights. And make no mistake about it, the expectations are high. A decade-plus commitment to a specific offensive scheme helped bring championships to Atlanta. With the Yellow Jackets from 1999-2001 and in 2006, Collins didn't just see the highlights prior, he coached them. Collins was on teams with All-Americans Joe Hamilton and Calvin Johnson; both were at the Georgia Tech spring game. 

There isn't clarity as to what Georgia Tech's identity will actually be, but, already, there is confidence.

"I can't really give you the details, but we are definitely going to come out with some big-time plays," Camp smiled. 

Many are wondering about Georgia Tech's recalibration post-Johnson. Whether with potential recruits or his program reset, Collins is off to a striking start. A majority of pundits, however, are understandably taking a wait-and-see approach. The Yellow Jackets aren't worried about pre-season projections, though, rather the potential of on-field production. Collins' conviction is very much the foundation for Georgia Tech's future. It's a sentiment the players share. 

"I wouldn't like it any other way. To be that underdog where nobody really knows what to expect from you. That way you can shock a lot of people," Camp concluded. "In our locker room, we know what we have, what we have coming, what to expect from our guys. It's just up to us to translate that and show that to the fans and the rest of college football."

Georgia Tech is coming. The wide receivers are off and running.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports