Even Georgia’s quarterback.
“I have to speed up my footwork,” quarterback Aaron Murray said, “get the ball out a little earlier and then just throw it as far as I can.”
No one doubt’s Scott-Wesley’s speed. That was evident in the No. 9 Bulldogs’ last game, when he got free behind the secondary, hauled in one of those deep throws from Murray, and was gone on an 85-yard touchdown that sealed a crucial victory over South Carolina.
But it’s Scott-Wesley’s development as an all-around receiver that has Georgia (1-1) believing he’ll be a significant contributor the rest of the way, especially after Malcolm Mitchell went down with a season-ending knee injury.
The Bulldogs host North Texas (2-1) on Saturday, then face another huge game against sixth-ranked LSU the following week.
“The parts of his game that have really developed this past year have been his route running, changing directions, confidence in catching the ball,” said fellow receiver Chris Conley. “There’s more purpose in the way he does it. He knows why he does things. He’s able to affect defenses. That’s made him so much more effective as a receiver and one that can be relied on.”
When Scott-Wesley got to Georgia in 2011, he was known as much for his track exploits — he was a state high school champion in both the 100- and 200-meter dash — as he was for his football skills.
He was redshirted his first season and played sparingly a year ago, though he began to show a glimpse of his potential in the Capital One Bowl, where he had three catches for 67 yards in a victory over Nebraska.
Along the way, Scott-Wesley got tired of hearing people call him nothing more than a track guy trying to make it on the gridiron.
“I knew I was raw at the wide receiver position, so I just came out and worked hard,” he said. “I hate being labeled. I hate being called a one-trick pony. I really had the mindset in the offseason that I was going to come out and show people I can catch, that I can make different catches over the middle, that I can take a hit and deliver a hit.”
Mitchell tore up his right knee in a season-opening loss to Clemson, depriving Murray and the Bulldogs of their best deep threat.
But Scott-Wesley quickly showed he could be the one to fill the void. He had four catches for 55 yards against the Tigers, then got his first career start the following week. He made three more receptions for 116 yards in that one, including the long touchdown that finished off South Carolina and led to a magnificent description afterward — “If they had thrown a grenade out there, I would’ve been the only one to die,” he said, referring to how open he was behind the blown coverage.
This week, Scott-Wesley fessed up to a bit of thievery in the quote department.
“My high school coach used to say that all the time. I thought it was appropriate,” he said, breaking into a big grin. “That’s not a Justin Scott-Wesley original. I’ve got to give my coach credit for that.”
But he’s the one putting in the time to get better as a receiver, on and off the field.
The key, he said, is heeding the advice of Georgia’s receivers coach, Tony Ball.
“Coach Ball tells me all the time that I can’t just rely on my speed,” Scott-Wesley said. “He tells me I’ve got to know when to use my speed. I can’t come out and beat everybody with speed. Sometimes I’ve got to add a little movement. That’s something I’ve worked on. I’ve added a few moves to my repertoire.”
If that gives him more room to run, all the better for the Bulldogs.