One of the things Kyle and I continually marvel at is the ability of you Dawg Sports readers to post news surrounding University of Georgia athletics before we can get anything up on the site about it, usually with some valuable insight to boot. This is one of the benefits of SBNation's community model. In a way, it's the whole idea. Covering the world of sports, like raising children, takes a village. A village whose residents break down the 3-3-5 defense, hang tacky Daniel Moore paintings, and lobby for Melky Cabrera to take over the leadoff spot for the Braves. But the fact remains, as they used to say of The Daily Show, when news breaks, you folks fix it.
Such was once again the case when DavetheDawg pointed out the commitment of class of 2011 wide receiver Chris Conley in the comments section of Kyle's thread discussing the news of Trey Thompkins' return for the 2010-2011 season.
Conley is a rising senior at North Paulding High School who chose Georgia over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Stanford, Tennessee and a host of others. He's been making the rounds of Junior Days this spring, turning heads and collecting scholarship offers with his combination of size (6'3, 180) and athleticism (sub 4.5 forty and 30+ inch vertical jump). This highlight video from Scout.com provides a good indication of what Georgia gets with Conley on the field.
North Paulding is entering only its third season of varsity football, and Conley is not exactly surrounded by a cast of All-Americans. The quarterback throwing to him in this video is most likely a wonderful young man and a credit to his mama and daddy. But he's not Matthew Stafford. The coaches at North Paulding have obviously done a good job of implementing a screen passing game that allows them to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker with as little risk as possible.
One positive benefit of this is that we get to see Conley with the ball in his hands a lot. After the catch Conley looks more like a tailback than a receiver. He makes guys miss, isn't afraid to throw in a stiff arm, lower his shoulder and generally gets upfield for positive yardage. This is a definite pro, as many high school receivers get in the bad habit of jitterbugging and reversing field to pick up big yardage. That works well in high school, when you're the fatsest guy on the field. But in the SEC those guys usually end up cutting back right into a guy like Brandon Spikes or Justin Houston. Nine times out of ten, this ends badly for 180 pound freshman wide receivers.
When the Wolfpack do go downfield to Conley, he does a good job of going up and getting the ball at its highest point. When you're a 6'3 receiver with elite leaping ability in high school, this is what you do. It is what A.J. Green does as well or better than anyone in college football. And in Georgia's pro-style, downfield passing game, it is an essential skill. Mike Bobo and Mark Richt expect their quarterback to put the ball up in the air and they expect their receivers to go get it. Chris Conley appears able to do that.
Chris needs to develop a little physically before he's ready to bump and bang with SEC corners. But there's no reason to believe that won't happen. I also get the impression that his route running may need some work, something that Tony Ball is not shy about helping guys with. Right now I would liken Conley physically to Mo Massaquoi coming out of high school, though he might not be quite as polished as a receiver. However, with a full season of varsity football to go before he reports, then a full spring practice, I have no reason to believe he couldn't contribute as a freshman if called upon.
It's no secret that Georgia is thin at wide receiver this season, and looks to be even thinner in 2011 with the expected loss of A.J. Green and Kris Durham. The defection of some kid from Calhoun from the class of 2010, despite repeated assurances that he'd be in Athens, and some signing day misses on other receivers didn't help. Georgia will be looking to sign at least 3 wide receivers in the class of 2011, and getting one of Conley's ability and potential before Memorial Day is a good start.
Off the field, Conley is an A student who will graduate early and enroll in Athens in January 2011. His Head Coach, Heath Webb, describes Chris as a "Coach Richt kind of guy", a low key young man who committed in an intimate get-together this morning with his family and teammates. Conley is not giving interviews this weekend, and instead issued a statement, which Chip Towers has on the AJC recruiting blog. In addition to thanking his family, teammates and church, Conley flatly declares "in keeping with my beliefs, I want my yes to be yes and my no to be no. Therefore, as of today, I will discontinue my contact with all schools other than UGA." All of which means that not only can you bank on Chris Conley being a solid verbal, you can count on him being a solid young man, the kind whose commitment you should be excited about.
While we here at Dawg Sports frown upon frivolous displays of optimism, 2 positive developments in a 24 hour period are all I need to declare it a beautiful day:
All this good news is giving me a case of vertigo. Until later . . .