The road back for Dominick Blaylock has been a long one.

After coming to Athens in 2019 he showed flashes of being Georgia’s next offensive star. He caught 18 passes for 310 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was the team’s primary punt returner. Every time he touched the ball, there was a sense he could make something happen.

Then Blaylock tore his ACL against LSU in the SEC championship game. The Tigers would go on to win the national title that year. The receiver from Walton High School in Marietta would go on to be an afterthought in Georgia’s receiving corps.

It’s not that he was thought to be a bad player. His name just faded into the background. Kearis Jackson became a primary target. So did Brock Bowers, AD Mitchell and Jermaine Burton. And so on.

Blaylock missed the next season recovering from the injury and saw limited action in 2021. He played in 2 games, caught 2 passes for 11 yards and went back on the shelf for the majority of the Bulldogs’ run to the national championship.

On Saturday against Vanderbilt it wasn’t exactly a breakout game. It wasn’t 100-plus receiving yards and multiple scores. But Blaylock finally become a factor again on a team that is trying to win back-to-back titles.

The 6-foot-1 junior caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Stetson Bennett with just more than a minute left in the first half on Saturday in Georgia’s 55-0 win against the Commodores. Blaylock took in a short toss in the flat on the right side and outran the defense to the front corner of the end zone. He got inside the pylon for his first touchdown reception since that promising freshman season in 2019.

He caught 1 other pass, a 25-yarder earlier that quarter on another Georgia TD drive, but it was when and how he scored that mattered. Back in his freshman season Blaylock already had become one of Georgia’s primary weapons. He looked like he’d hold that role for a few years, then become a high draft pick. Instead injuries slowed him down.

His potential reemergence as a weapon in Georgia’s offense is a testament to his work and patience during the past three seasons. He now has 10 receptions for 146 yards and that first score. And he has been a consistent presence in Georgia’s offense, which now has 8 pass catchers who have totaled at least 100 receiving yards after the first 7 games.

So, what does this mean?

The Bulldogs have been desperate for the emergence of another dynamic receiving option after the injury to sophomore Mitchell. Bowers is the go-to player, and he often has been a noticeable target for opposing defenses. So Mitchell’s absence requires another receiver to stand out, and Georgia is still looking for that one player.

But Blaylock has played well, along with tight end Darnell Washington, wide receiver Ladd McConkey and running back Kenny McIntosh.

Blaylock still hasn’t returned to being an elite receiver. But the progress he has made since his injury three seasons ago is impressive. And his mere presence as an option for Bennett makes Georgia’s offense better.

If he continues to improve this year, it just makes Georgia’s offense that much more potent.