The Georgia offense has lost its balance. On its way to a 3-1 start, the Bulldogs have ridden the coattails of its best player due in part to a lackluster passing game.

He made it three games without giving the ball away, but did so twice on Saturday in the win over Tennessee. Todd Kelly, Jr. and Cameron Sutton both picked Mason off. The first was a misread by Mason; Kelly, the true freshman defensive back – did a good job of baiting Mason into throwing the football into a window that wasn’t really there.

After the win, head coach Mark Richt suggested that the interceptions were not necessarily Mason’s fault.

“I don’t know if we’re out of sync, but we’ve just got to make plays on the ball better,” Richt said according to Chris Starrs of theĀ Athens Banner-Herald. “We’ve got to get off the jam better and give a better target. We know that whether a guy runs a good route or a bad route, there’s always a place you can throw the ball that gives our guy a better chance than their guy.”

“The reality is, we need to get a little separation out there, too. We need some guys that can give you something a little more to throw to than just a back shoulder throw sometimes on the deep balls.”

It’s been oft-discussed through the first third of the season about how Mason is missing three really good receivers in Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Jonathan Rumph. But what will the return of its two deep threats mean to Mason?

Georgia boasts one of the most formidable rushing attacks in college football, but ranks 111 in passing offense. Mason seems to have no sense of timing with his receivers and has not shown the ability to throw the ball deep on a consistent basis. His two longest passes this season are 33 yards to Sony Michel against South Carolina and 20 yards on Saturday against the Vols.

Chris Conley is the Bulldogs’ leading receiver in yards per game, averaging a pedestrian 40.3 receiving yards per game.

Richt said in his Sunday evening teleconference that the plan is for Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and Rumph to practice and play this week against Vanderbilt.

Opposing secondaries are able to stack the box and not worry about a single high safety or man coverage outside because of the Bulldogs’ inability to throw the ball. Tight ends Jay Rome and Jed Blazevich have been all but lost so far this season and no player on the outside with the exception of the now-injured Michel and Isaiah McKenzie are threats to get yards after the catch.

The return of Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and Rumph could make Mason and the Georgia passing game good as new. All three possess the ability to stretch the defense out and keep defenses honest when scheming for Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Michel. If Georgia can show the ability to throw the ball deep, that will also open up underneath routes for Conley, Michael Bennett and a host of other wideouts Richt has thrown on the field.

Either way, the Bulldogs need changes through the air. Inconsistent quarterback play and subpar performances from its receiving corps has been the achilles heel of Richt’s team.

And anything less than an SEC East title in a year in which the division is in a tailspin would be a monumental disappointment.