Well, Dawg fans, you knew this day would come -- it's time to wish A.J. Green the best of luck in the NFL and begin the difficult task of figuring out how to replace the most dynamic Georgia receiver in generations, perhaps of all time. Here are the players who will be trying on A.J.'s substantial shoes as spring practice begins.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
1. Tavarres King (6'1"191,), RJr.
2. Michael Bennett (6'3", 202), RFr.
3. Chris Conley (6'3", 180), Fr.
4. Sanford Seay (6'3", 198), Fr.
Who's coming back. The top two receivers from last year may be gone, but the next four are coming back -- wideouts Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, along with tight ends Orson Charles and Aron White. Rantavious Wooten and Israel Troupe are back as well, but both practically fell off the map in 2010 after showing some signs of promise in '09. One potential sleeper: Michael Bennett, who wore a redshirt last year but has been spoken very highly of by the coaches.
Who's not. A.J. Green, of course, is gone, but the Dawgs also lose the sure hands of Kris Durham, who graduates this spring. QB-turned-receiver Logan Gray is looking for a transfer destination so that he can get his master's degree. And ex-tight end Bruce Figgins is being moved to fullback, though TE is the one position in the receiving corps that the Dawgs won't have to worry about -- the depth there is quite solid.
Who's new. The Dawgs didn't wait long after A.J.'s draft declaration to begin reeling in a formidable class of wide receivers. As of now, the scuttlebutt says that Malcolm Mitchell -- a four-star WR out of Valdosta for whom Georgia managed to beat Alabama's considerable recruiting efforts -- is the most likely of those recruits to see playing time this fall, though early enrollee Chris Conley has been on campus long enough to observe the Dawgs' offensive system and possibly begin contributing as well. The wild cards are wide receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Sanford Seay and tight end Jay Rome. Scott-Wesley and Seay both feature track-star speed that could make either one the deep-threat heir apparent to Green, but they'll need to add some muscle first. Rome, like Mitchell, is a four-star Valdosta product who turned down Bama for the Dawgs, but with Georgia already well-stocked at TE, Mark Richt may not be in any hurry to burn a potential redshirt just yet.
Outlook. Tavarres King seems pretty solid at one of the starting spots, and Orson Charles and Aron White should share action at tight end all season. Beyond that, almost nothing is certain. Marlon Brown was a widely heralded recruit when he turned down Lane Kiffin's neon clutches and signed with Georgia in 2009, but his Georgia career right now amounts to 13 catches for 148 yards and a TD over two years. With the other two returning flankers (Wooten and Troupe) being virtual nonentities in 2010, there will be ample opportunity for Malcolm Mitchell, who gives up some size to Brown but could otherwise be every but Green's equal in terms of athleticism, to make a quick climb up the depth chart. Chris Conley will also get some looks, but if Richt starts flirting seriously with the idea of making either Justin Scott-Wesley or Sanford Seay the starter, it probably isn't a good sign.
At the split end position, don't be surprised to see Michael Bennett get some opportunities to make plays out of Mike Bobo's multiple-receiver sets. No worries at tight end, where Orson Charles has established himself well but Aron White has made some big plays as well; the depth Georgia enjoyed at the position last year allowed Bobo to employ some two-TE sets where Charles lined up more or less in the slot, and that trend should continue. Even with Bruce Figgins moving to fullback, the Dawgs' TE depth is such that they can afford to redshirt Jay Rome, but Richt seems to be throwing out some of his preconceived notions about seniority and when to redshirt star recruits. If Rome wows the coaches in spring and summer practice, Richt will find a way to put him on the field in the fall.
Overall, this is a class of receivers that's long on potential but short on definite answers. But if Aaron Murray spreads the ball around as well this year as he did in 2010 -- 19 different receivers caught passes last season, and 10 of them caught at least one touchdown -- there will be no shortage of opportunities for each player to show what they can do.