It's often easier to list what Ladd McConkey didn't do during his days with the North Murray High School football team.
He played quarterback, running back and receiver. He was a defensive back. He punted, and he returned kickoffs and punts.
Georgia sixth-year coach Kirby Smart racks up way too many heralded recruits to need a player to be that versatile, but he is certainly open to the idea of McConkey having multiple roles with the 2021 Bulldogs. The 6-foot, 185-pound redshirt freshman receiver competed before spectators at Sanford Stadium for the first time this past Saturday at the G-Day spring game, collecting four receptions for 28 yards.
"First of all, he's got great toughness," Smart said after G-Day, which served as the 15th and final spring practice. "He's got great savvy. He has no fear. He's taken some shots this spring and gets back up and keeps going.
"He's in the competition for return game reps, and my expectation is that he competes."
Three of McConkey's G-Day catches came from redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Beck, with the fourth coming from early enrollee Brock Vandagriff. He did not get to showcase any special teams skills, as G-Day did not have kickoff returns or punt returns.
McConkey is the lowest-rated offensive signee of the Smart era, having been ranked as the nation's No. 1,161 overall prospect in the 2020 class. What he lacked in star status, McConkey certainly made up for in production, compiling an eye-popping 3,051 all-purpose yards during his senior season with the Mountaineers.
He also snagged four interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns.
His versatility spilled over to North Murray's basketball and track teams, but his activity as a Georgia freshman was limited to the scout team. McConkey never saw any action for the 8-2 Bulldogs, who lost their stranglehold on the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference but managed to rally past Cincinnati 24-21 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Georgia's receiver depth took a hit this spring with a major injury to George Pickens and a minor setback for Jermaine Burton, which resulted in McConkey getting "a ton of reps," according to Smart, and potentially setting the stage for a breakout season whether on offense or special teams or both.
"He's going to go out and compete for special teams jobs all over the place," Smart said as he peered ahead to preseason camp, "and he's going to compete at wide receiver. He's got to get a little bigger and stronger, but he's got really good quickness.
"I'm excited about Ladd. He's a guy who's going to be a good football player for us."
Riddle in portal
Former McCallie School quarterback Robert Riddle announced Monday that he has entered the NCAA transfer portal after spending four seasons at Mercer.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder from Lookout Mountain redshirted with the Bears in 2017 and received a medical redshirt last year. Coupled with the NCAA allowing the extra season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Riddle would have seven seasons of eligibility during his college career should he choose to use them.
Riddle is graduating from Mercer in less than a month with a business administration/marketing degree, so he will be a grad transfer with three years remaining.
"Mercer has given me an immeasurable amount of blessings to be grateful for, including an amazing education, athletic experience and friendships that will last a lifetime," Riddle said via Twitter.
Riddle became Mercer's starter three games into his redshirt freshman year in 2018, but he played just four contests and threw for 851 yards and six touchdowns before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury. He started the first seven games in 2019, throwing for 1,453 yards and 15 scores, but had that season derailed by a serious ankle injury.
He underwent ankle surgery in October 2019 and again last September, so he hasn't played in 18 months.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.