Georgia's Demetris Robertson is the most crucial wild card in college football
Over the weekend at the Manning Passing Academy, Jake Fromm was asked about Georgia’s offense moving on without Jeremiah Holloman.
It’s been a popular topic of conversation since Kirby Smart kicked the team’s leading returning receiver off the team after assault allegations surfaced. That created a reality that last year’s top 5 leaders in receiving yards were gone.
As usual, Fromm gave the politically correct answer when talking about the massive turnover at the position.
“There’s a lot of guys we can’t wait to see what they do. We’re excited to see D-Rob and Tyler Simmons step up,” Fromm told DawgNation.
“D-Rob” is Demetris Robertson, AKA the former Cal transfer who earned Freshman All-America honors after a 2016 season in which he racked up 767 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.
Robertson, AKA the former 5-star Savannah (Ga.) recruit who turned down in-state Georgia for Cal to try and follow in the footsteps of DeSean Jackson and Keenan Allen.
Robertson, AKA the guy who was expected to make a major splash after being granted immediate eligibility following his 2018 transfer to Georgia, but was ultimately held without a catch in 2018.
Robertson, AKA the guy who now looks like the most important wild card in college football.
I don’t want to put words in Fromm’s mouth, but the more blunt way to phrase that would be, “you know that D-Rob guy who didn’t catch a pass for us last year? Yeah, well, that’s not gonna fly this year.”
Robertson’s lack of production last year could be chalked up to a combination of a few things. For starters, he didn’t transfer to Georgia until last July, and that was after he suffered a season-ending injury 2 games into 2017. That meant he basically had fall camp to get on the same page with Fromm, who already had connections with the likes of Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta and he was developing a rapport with Holloman.
Ultimately, that pecking order proved to be too difficult for Robertson to crack in such short time. His 4 touches all came via carries, and only 1 came against a Power 5 team (a 2-yard run against Tennessee). Robertson flashed his 5-star ability with a jet sweep that he took 72 yards to the house against Austin Peay.
Why didn’t Robertson play more if that speed was such a weapon? It could be that Robertson was still raw as a receiver.
How could that be possible for the former 5-star recruit? He was used basically everywhere in high school, and he actually posted 1,043 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns on 107 carries as a senior while adding 12 catches for 126 yards and 1 score.
What about the big freshman season at Cal, you ask? Go back and watch Robertson’s highlights. Better yet, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Basically all involve Robertson running in a straight line and having Davis Webb either look off a safety on a go-route or hoping that the true freshman could beat someone in one-on-one coverage.
Don’t get me wrong. Very few players can burn a defense like that. That’s what makes Robertson so dangerous on any given play.
But in terms of route-running, catching balls in traffic or making something out of nothing, Robertson is relatively unproven in those areas.
To me, it would make sense if that was at the root of why it was such a struggle for him to play last year. You can’t be a one-trick pony in the SEC. Going up against that Georgia secondary in practice was probably a strong barometer of what Robertson was capable of on Saturdays.
Now, though? That’s not an excuse.
Robertson is entering his fourth year of college and he’s had a full year to get on the same page with Fromm. From the sound of Smart’s comments about him in the spring, that development was going extremely well. That’s why Smart was frustrated that a late illness prevented Robertson from playing in the spring game.
Had Robertson been able to showcase that maturation on G-Day, we’d probably be talking about him in a much different light. As it stands, though, he’s a complete wild card.
The hope is that he can develop into a Mecole Hardman-type role. Hardman might not have been a high volume guy, but when he was schemed to get looks in space, he was lethal.
That’s what Robertson has to develop into. If defenses are forced to respect that, that’ll only open up the deep ball even more for him. That’s what can turn him into an All-SEC receiver and prevent Georgia’s preseason weakness from surfacing this fall.
It feels like there’s even more pressure on Robertson than someone like George Pickens, who enters 2019 as a 5-star freshman. As high as expectations are for the former Hoover High (Ala.) star, Georgia’s passing game shouldn’t depend on whether Pickens can become 2012 Amari Cooper. And to be clear, it’s not just Robertson who needs to take a bigger step forward.
As Fromm mentioned, Simmons (Georgia’s top returning receiver) stepping up would be key. Georgia would also love for grad transfer Lawrence Cager to match the 17.8 yards per catch and 6 receiving touchdowns that he had last year at Miami. If redshirt freshman Kearis Jackson can become a weapon as the new slot receiver, that would be a major lift for Fromm, too.
But Robertson is the one who really needs to take the biggest step forward.
This seems like such a pivotal year for the Dawgs with the likely scenario that both Fromm and D’Andre Swift are off to the NFL at season’s end. A team with realistic national title aspirations usually doesn’t have a preseason deficiency so obvious.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that of the 20 teams to make the Playoff, all of them had at least 1 of their top 5 receivers back from the previous season (16 of them had at least 2). Chemistry matters, and great teams have it. Time will tell if Georgia is a great team in 2019.
It seems like Robertson will have as much of a say in deciding that as anyone.