‘If they underestimate it, that’s what we like’

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Georgia football wide receiver Ladd McConkey keeps making people miss

Todd Monken mentioned an interesting name earlier this fall when he spoke to the media. Georgia’s offensive coordinator talked about how to get the most out of your skilled players and how certain guys adapt to thrive in different systems.

“What are his unique skill sets that he can take advantage of?” Monken asked. “Wes Welker at one point was great for the Dolphins, and then they brought him to the Patriots and he became a Hall of Fame type of player. There are certain guys, certain riders where if you can use some of their skills you will allow them to excel, and that’s what we want to do.”

Georgia’s offensive coordinator wasn’t talking specifically about Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey in this case, and no, he wasn’t subconsciously comparing the two white wide receivers to each other. There’s no need to make a joke about the New England Patriots’ future wide receiver every time McConkey touches the ball.

But his biggest point illustrates why a player whose only Power 5 offerings were Georgia and Vanderbilt became such a valuable weapon for the Bulldogs.

McConkey was a late addition to Georgia’s signing class of 2020. The Bulldogs were the first Power 5 school to offer it, three days after they signed Monken. He was engaged on February 2 as the final piece of Georgia’s No. 1 ranked class.

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McConkey starred for North Murray High School in Chatsworth, Georgia, doing everything except catching passes for the Mountaineers in his final season. He threw for 20 touchdowns, rushed for another 10, had three punt return touchdowns and intercepted four passes. He also kicked and started for the basketball team.

The Bulldogs and Monken saw his future as a wide receiver. McConkey redshirted his freshman year on campus, but quickly earned the respect of his teammates for the way he played on the Georgia scouting team.

He quickly proved that he was much better than the recruiting ranking he had been given in high school, ranking as the No. 1,160 player in the class.

“After seeing what he did on the scouting team being there, we thought, ‘OK, this kid can play,’” offensive lineman Tate Ratledge said. “He was giving trouble to our only defense.”

Many members of that 2020 defense would go on to become key pieces of last year’s championship defense. If you can make guys like Lewis Cine, Eric Stokes and Nakobe Dean look silly in practice, chances are you can do it on Saturdays.

“I really think that came in practice and translated into games,” McConkey said of his confidence. “Playing against that defense that we had, going against the No. 1 team in the nation every day. Being able to play against those guys gives me the confidence to be able to go out there and do it against everyone else.”

McConkey is listed at 6-foot-180, on the smaller side for Georgia wide receivers. But between white lines, he has proven capable of making big play after big play, as several SEC teams learned in 2021.

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Consider last season against Auburn when he caught five passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Or the 32-yard touchdown he had against Alabama in the SEC championship game.

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