published Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Georgia freshman Chris Conley making up for lost time at receiver

Georgia receiver Chris Conley runs for yardage in last Saturday's game against New Mexico State at Athens, Ga.
Georgia receiver Chris Conley runs for yardage in last Saturday's game against New Mexico State at Athens, Ga.
Photo by Contributed Photo.

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia's Aaron Murray entered the quarterback meeting room last week for some film study when he discovered it occupied by freshman receiver Chris Conley.

"He told me I was too late and kicked me out," Murray said, smiling, "and I had to go to the running backs room to watch film."

Conley put his prep work to good use, making five catches for 126 yards and a 47-yard touchdown during Saturday's 63-16 massacre of New Mexico State. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder from Dallas, Ga., was expected to redshirt this season but instead has flourished after injuries to three other receivers depleted the position.

So what was it like to pull rank on Murray?

"Well, I didn't tell him that," Conley said with a laugh, "but when a room is occupied, you find a room. I ended up in the quarterbacks room that day and was watching some of the week's practice film. He comes in behind me, and I was like 'My bad.' He said, 'It's all right. I'll find another room.' So I just finished watching practice."

One of the more unheralded members of the "Dream Team," the articulate and beaming Conley may be experiencing the most unique journey of the bunch. He enrolled early with quarterback Christian LeMay and was planning to sit out this season, especially after not playing in the benches-emptying 59-0 win over Coastal Carolina on Sept. 17.

The Bulldogs traveled to Ole Miss the next week, and Conley was moved to the scout team to help the starters and prominent backups prepare for the Rebels.

"We wear these wristbands that say 'No complaining' during the summer," Conley said, "and I was like, 'I'm not going to complain. I'm going to go all out on scout team.' It was actually pretty fun, because I got to mess with a lot of the guys on defense.

"They were used to making plays on guys, but I made some plays on them. I enjoyed it."

Conley's scout-team experience lasted two days, because the receiver position was running dry with injuries to Marlon Brown (ankle), Israel Troupe (quadriceps) and Rantavious Wooten (concussion). He made his debut in Oxford and had receptions the next two weeks against Mississippi State and Tennessee.

A three-catch, 38-yard performance against Florida gave him five receptions before last week's five-catch outburst.

"I'm sure the coaches are kicking themselves about not playing him a little bit earlier," Murray said. "He's done a great job all year, and the thing I love the most about him is that he goes out there and catches it with his hands. He never lets the ball get into his chest because he extends his hands out there and catches the ball away from the defenders."

Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: "I think all our receivers are very talented guys, and he's one of the hardest workers we've got on our football team. Being a freshman, he's just a very mature kid who has a lot of athletic ability and works extremely hard at his craft."

Conley became the fourth Georgia player to produce a 100-yard receiving game, joining tight end Orson Charles (109 vs. Boise State), fellow freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell (126 vs. Tennessee) and Brown (121 vs. Vanderbilt). Tavarres King and Michael Bennett have yet to attain the feat, but they certainly proved their value with fourth-down touchdown catches in the 24-20 comeback win against the Gators.

"Everybody is getting a chance to put their mark on the offense, and that's the running backs included," Conley said. "Everybody is getting a chance to make an impact in games, and I think that will really help us in the long run, because defenses can't really pinpoint one guy to shut down.

"They have to be aware of all the threats."

Odds and ends

Bobo on Murray having 23 touchdown passes and needing three more to break Matthew Stafford's single-season school mark of 25 set in 2008: "He was close last year [24 entering the Liberty Bowl] and went out and laid an egg." ... The Bulldogs worked out for 90 minutes Wednesday, after which head coach Mark Richt said he's convinced Mitchell (hamstring) will be ready to play against Auburn.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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