There has been a kind of fan fixation on Jonathon Rumph since he arrived at Georgia.
Until now, it has been based primarily on myth and legend. The 6-foot-5, 208-pound wide receiver is an impressive physical specimen, for sure. But based only on a couple of touchdown grabs in the G-Day game last spring, many in the Bulldog Nation spoke of him as if he were the second coming of A.J. Green.
A hamstring tear in preseason camp left Rumph unable to prove whether he was. He has been sidelined for almost the entire season. He dressed for the Vanderbilt and Florida games, but didn’t appear in the box score.
Finally, Rumph saw real action Saturday, and he did nothing to quell the optimism. He had four catches for 98 yards in Georgia’s 45-6 win over Appalachian State, playing one quarter.
While it occurred in the fourth quarter against a downtrodden opponent, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo liked what he saw.
“I’m actually getting excited about him,” Bobo said. “At the end of camp, we were kind of excited about him, then he had that hamstring. It’s been about 10 months since, it seems like. But he’s getting back, and we’ve got three more regular-season games. So there’s going to be plenty more opportunities, and he’s going to be on the field Saturday.”
Said quarterback Aaron Murray: “That was the Jonathon Rumph that we remember in camp. He was killing it.”
Just the fact that the Bulldogs have never entertained the thought of redshirting Rumph, despite that he missed three-quarters of the season, is indicative of what they think of his potential. Not only does he bring a height element mostly missing from Georgia’s receiving corps, he has proved to have sure hands when the ball has come his way, and he has exceptional speed.
Those attributes could be well-utilized opposite some of Georgia’s other established receivers, many of whom are also coming back from injuries. Michael Bennettt (knee) returned against Florida and has caught 10 passes since. And now it looks as if leading receiver Chris Conley might come back Saturday after missing the past two games with an ankle sprain.
“I feel like we’re getting back in the swing of things,” Rumph said. “Everybody’s coming back, and even if everybody doesn’t, we’re still able to perform. We’ve got great backup players here, and everybody knows their role. When the rest of these guys come back it’s just going to kick it up a notch.”
Bobo said Saturday’s work was important for Rumph because “his confidence was a little shaken” with all the time away from the field. That no longer seems an issue for Rumph.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself,” said Rumph, a transfer from Holmes Community College in Mississippi. “I was just ready to get out there and show everybody what I can do. I wanted to show that they didn’t waste their time getting an athlete like me.
“It’s a great feeling. Everybody on the coaching staff and all the players, they’ve all always had confidence in me. So I was ready to showcase my talent for the fans and give them something to talk about.”
Rumph certainly has done that, but there is more work to be done. Because the hamstring injury kept him off the practice field for so long, Rumph doesn’t have the grasp of the Bulldogs’ offensive playbook and concepts that he would like to have. He said he studied religiously, but it’s not the same as playing.
“It’s just like class,” he said. “It’s harder to study a book than it is to go out and do it and make your body do it with somebody out there guarding you. I would probably be in the rotation a lot more now if I could’ve practiced.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt seconded that notion.
“If Jonathon was healthy since the beginning of camp, he’d be very heavy in our rotation,” Richt said. “Who knows how many catches he might have had to this point?”
Just a few each Saturday the rest of the way could make all the difference for the Bulldogs.