ATHENS, Ga. — When Justin Scott-Wesley signed with Georgia in 2011 as a 6-foot-1, 210-pound receiver, he wanted to make an impact just like every other "Dream Team" classmate.
Scott-Wesley had been a Rivals.com four-star prospect at Mitchell County High and was also Georgia's Class AA 100-meter dash champion. By the time the 2011 season kicked off, however, he had bulked up to 228 pounds and wound up redshirting.
"When I was in high school, I didn't really have a strong weight program," Scott-Wesley said this week. "Once I came here, I hit the weights hard. I think I hit it too hard."
Now a 205-pound redshirt sophomore, Scott-Wesley is fulfilling his desire of being the top speed threat on an offense already stocked with experience and talent.
Through two games this season, Scott-Wesley is leading the Bulldogs and ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 85.5 yards per contest. The biggest chunk of that came with 13 minutes remaining in the 41-30 win over South Carolina on Sept. 7, when he caught a pass at midfield from a scrambling Aaron Murray and showcased his speed for an 86-yard touchdown.
"I thought it was going to be a nice gain, and then he just took off," Murray said. "It was sweet to see him turn on the afterjets."
While South Carolina's sideline stood bewildered and Sanford Stadium went berserk, Scott-Wesley emphatically stated that he could supplant Malcolm Mitchell as Georgia's primary deep option. Mitchell tore his ACL in the season opening loss at Clemson.
Scott-Wesley had just three catches during the 2012 regular season, with two coming against Georgia Southern and the other against Florida Atlantic. He was going unnoticed until making three receptions for 67 yards in the Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska on New Year's Day.
"He's been one of those guys, kind of like Marlon Brown, where it didn't come quickly," coach Mark Richt said. "It has just been a steady improvement all along throughout his career so far. Of course, Marlon got sidetracked with some injuries, but we were seeing Marlon really coming along about this time in his career.
"Justin had good top-end speed, but it took him too long to get there. Now, with losing the weight, he is smoother out of the break and can get going full speed faster."
Most every Georgia player says Scott-Wesley is the fastest on the team. Sophomore tailback Keith Marshall prefers to call it a tie, adding that the two had the same fastest time in track before admitting that Scott-Wesley has reached the time on multiple occasions.
Scott-Wesley's life has changed since his touchdown against South Carolina, as his number of fans and friends on social media has increased sharply. Murray's life may be changing as well.
"I'm going to have to speed up my footwork," Murray said. "I had to do that with A.J. [Green] when he was here. You've just got to throw it as far as you can, because for those guys, it's never far enough. They're going to catch up to it.
"They have speed, and once the ball is in the air, they hit another gear."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs worked out for 75 minutes Wednesday in jerseys, shorts and helmets. ... Richt said after practice that junior-college receiver Jonathon Rumph will likely miss his third straight game after tweaking his hamstring. ... Though Hutson Mason could get playing time Saturday, Richt said his backup quarterback has received the same amount of reps in practice this week as usual. ... Tim Worley, who rushed for 1,216 yards on Vince Dooley's final team in 1988, is Georgia's representative this season for the SEC Legends.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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 ...