ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia's passing game is clicking so well these days that Michael Bennett may have shed his label as a possession receiver.
Bennett became the third different 100-yard receiver for the Bulldogs in as many weeks last Saturday when he hauled in four Aaron Murray passes for 110 yards in a 56-20 rout of Florida Atlantic. The most meaningful was a 67-yard touchdown late in the half that blew the game open, and it was the longest reception of Bennett's college career by 35 yards.
"I'm a white guy, but you've got to show them different," a smiling Bennett said this week after adding "deep threat" to his repertoire.
The 6-foot-3, 204-pound redshirt sophomore from the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta is Georgia's leading receiver with 17 catches for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Seniors Tavarres King and Marlon Brown are next in line, with King tallying 211 yards on 10 receptions and Brown amassing 150 yards on 11 catches.
King had 117 yards in the opening win over Buffalo, and Brown had 106 at Missouri.
Murray has completed 51 of 80 passes (63.8 percent) for 842 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. A staggering seven different receivers, which includes tight end Arthur Lynch, have gains of 35 yards or longer for what coach Mark Richt considers his finest vertical passing game since quarterback Matthew Stafford's junior season in 2008.
"I think we have some good vertical threats, and I think we have a quarterback who can put it on them," Richt said. "I like the vertical passing game. I like the passing game, period. It's the most fun as a coach."
When told of the comparison to the '08 components, King's face lit up.
"You've got names on that team that echo around the world in A.J. Green, Mohamed Massaquoi and Matthew Stafford," King said, "but I do think the group of guys we have now are just phenomenal."
King, Brown and Murray came to Georgia as top-100 national prospects, but Bennett was a three-star recruit who earned his scholarship by turning heads at the Mark Richt camp in June 2009 before his senior year. He redshirted in 2010, when Green and former Calhoun High standout and current Detroit Lions practice-squad member Kris Durham were the veterans.
"Kris Durham put me under his wing when he was here, and that was really cool," Bennett said. "A white guy teaching another white guy how to play receiver in the SEC. He showed me how to carry myself, so I owe a lot to Kris and to A.J., who is a down-to-earth guy. He was showing me by his actions on the field every day."
Bennett admits arriving at Georgia with a chip on his shoulder. He was very productive as a redshirt freshman, starting four games a year ago and compiling 32 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns.
Yet he averaged only 10 yards a catch, hence the possession receiver tag that existed until last weekend.
"He hates that label, because he's a kid who can move," Murray said. "You saw it the other night when he split the safety and the corner and took it for 70. Their DBs had speed, but he separated and showed what he had."
Odds and ends
Georgia junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is now Mel Kiper's top overall prospect for the 2013 NFL draft. ... Richt said after Wednesday's practice that left guard Dallas Lee (ankle) has a good chance to play Saturday against Vanderbilt.