Georgia football has a tough task ahead this weekend. The Bulldogs will face an elite wide receiver for the first time all year when Luther Burden III and Missouri come to town.
The sophomore currently sits fifth in the nation in receiving yards with 905 yards. Burden is also targeted plenty, as the former five-star recruit has 61 receptions, which is sixth in all of college football, and six touchdowns.
Head coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs tried hard to recruit Burden, and Georgia landed in his top three schools before committing to Missouri. Smart was quite familiar with Burden’s game and abilities before he had his breakout performance this season, and said as much prior to Georgia’s game against Missouri last season.
“Size. Elite skill set. He’s strong. He’s physical,” Smart said. “You watch him as a returner, he makes people miss. They find ways to get him touches. He catches the ball out of the backfield, speed sweeps. He runs deep and he returns the ball. He’s a very elusive, physical runner. You can tell when people go to tackle him, you can tell, he’s stout.”
Burden isn’t alone in the receiver room, as fellow starters Theo Wease Jr. and Mookie Cooper have also had solid seasons.
Wease, a senior transfer from Oklahoma, has 440 receiving yards and is second on the team with five receiving touchdowns. Cooper is in his third season with Missouri, having transferred from Ohio State after his freshman year. He has yet to find his way into the endzone but does have 359 yards on the year.
While not listed as a starter, freshman Marquis Johnson has been an effective receiver as well. He has 268 yards and three receiving touchdowns, despite only nine receptions.
While Georgia will still be without its own star receiving option with Brock Bowers, Georgia still has its own slate of pass-catching options, including former Missouri transfer Dominic Lovett.
Lovett hasn’t had as statistically strong of a season as he had with Missouri last season — he led the team with 846 receiving yards — but he’s leading Georgia wide receivers with 35 catches for 365 yards and one touchdown.
Senior Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is second among all receivers with 341 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow transfer Rara Thomas sits behind Lovett with 275 yards and only one touchdown.
Ladd McConkey has been quiet so far this season with only 242 yards and one touchdown after returning from injury, but is still a name to keep an eye on for this game. McConkey broke out against Florida, recording 135 yards and a touchdown in his fourth game of the season.
Even though Missouri has more statistical production, Georgia’s bevy of wideouts could prove troublesome for the Tigers’ secondary. Georgia has nine different players with over 100 receiving yards compared to Missouri’s five. Georgia also has 19 players with receiving yards, while Missouri only has 10.
Missouri’s passing game has been relying heavily upon one player, while Georgia’s strategy continues to rely on strength in numbers. On Saturday in Athens, one offensive strategy will remain supreme as both battle it out for first place in the SEC East and a bid for the SEC Championship.
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