We have a good idea who the major contributors will be at wide receiver, but a battle is brewing at the tight end position for 2012.
For a group that wasn't supposed to amount to much following A.J. Green's early departure to the NFL, Georgia's receiving corps acquitted itself nicely in 2011. Malcolm Mitchell stepped up early as a reliable deep threat, Orson Charles lived up to his potential and then some at tight end, and the group as a whole helped Aaron Murray avoid a sophomore slump following an excellent freshman year.
The receiving corps doesn't have to replace any A.J. Greens this year; in fact, they get their top six wide receivers back and eight of the 12 players overall who caught at least one touchdown pass in 2011. They do have to find a new playmaker at tight end, as Orson Charles has departed for the pros and Aron White has graduated, but otherwise this spring looks like it'll be less about position battles and more about taking the plastic wrap off some exciting new players from the last two recruiting classes and seeing what they're capable of.
A position that was a big question mark this time a year ago suddenly looks like the least of Georgia's concerns for 2012, as there's plenty of senior experience at the ready. Tavarres King had a big responsibility as the unit's new elder statesman in the wake of A.J.'s departure, but he filled his role admirably, earning the title of Georgia's leading receiver with 705 yards and eight TDs. While his senior experience makes him the presumptive starter for '12, though, one-time redshirt candidate Chris Conley emerged as the team's sleeper with some important grabs against Florida and Georgia Tech as a true freshman, and he'll get plenty of looks this spring. You can also expect to see a lot of Justin Scott-Wesley during spring practice -- the former state track champion redshirted last year and has the versatility to play a number of roles in Georgia's passing game.
Malcolm Mitchell burst onto the scene with a long TD reception in the 2011 opener against Boise State and, except for a midseason stretch in which he missed three games with a pulled hamstring, never looked back. He's the clear frontrunner for the starting job, but the battle for playing time behind him will be interesting. As a huge target with senior experience, Marlon Brown should have no trouble establishing a spot on the depth chart, but he actually had less yardage and less than half as many receptions last year as Michael Bennett, who saw the first action of his Georgia career against South Carolina in 2011. Bennett had some frustrating drops last year but also some critical touchdown receptions against South Carolina and Florida; Brown, meanwhile, had a monster game against Vanderbilt (and the team's lone TD in the ugly win over Kentucky) but was more or less a non-factor otherwise. This is Brown's last chance to live up to the hype that surrounded his recruitment in '09, but if Bennett continues to develop, the coaches won't hesitate to make him the No. 2 guy.
Rookie prospects: After a big WR haul in 2011, Georgia was able to throttle back its wideout recruiting for the 2012 class; they only signed one wide receiver, Lithonia's Blake Tibbs (6'2", 185). The Dawgs' depth at receiver means the coaches will be looking at Tibbs as a redshirt candidate, though his experience on special teams -- as a high school senior, he had a game-winning 82-yard kickoff return with 16 seconds left in a pivotal game against Stephenson -- could earn him some situational looks, particularly with Brandon Boykin gone.
After possessing an embarrassment of riches at TE for several years running, the Dawgs suddenly found themselves with a big question mark at the position with the departures of Charles and White. There's still plenty of talent at the position, but it remains to be seen who will step up. Arthur Lynch has the edge in experience and is big enough to play defensive line for all but a handful of teams in Division I-A, but Jay Rome was one of the biggest gets of the Dawgs' 2011 "Dream Team" class -- he picked Georgia despite a major push from Nick Saban's recruiting machine at Alabama -- and the coaches will look for every excuse to get him on the field. Lynch will be tough to beat as a blocker, but Rome's athleticism makes him the more likely heir apparent to Georgia's long line of TEs such as Charles, Ben Watson and Randy McMichael who've been integral parts of the passing game.
Rookie prospects: As with the wideouts, Georgia didn't make a major push for tight ends in its 2012 recruiting effort, but they did manage to bring in the nation's 12th-ranked TE, Ty Smith, from Colquitt County. If Georgia's depth situation at the position somehow developed to the point where Richt and Bobo could slap a redshirt on Smith for this season, they probably wouldn't have any problem with that at all, but Smith's skill set has been described as very Orson Charles-like and neither of the two guys above him have proven themselves on the field just yet. Don't be surprised if he gets some close looks during spring and the G-Day game.