ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Conley is aware of the unusual splits that marked his first two seasons at Georgia.
With veteran receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, Conley played an extremely limited role in the first halves of both seasons before injuries allowed him to make a larger impact in the second halves. He will have a chance to contribute from the beginning this fall -- and he hopes to take advantage of that opportunity.
“I guess I have to prove that it doesn’t take me until the fifth game to be in my prime. If you give me opportunities in the first half of the season, I’ll do the same thing,” Conley said. “Each of those seasons, I was playing behind some people. And once those people were injured, I had an opportunity to do those things. And now it’s not like that anymore.”
Conley was on pace to redshirt early in 2011 before injuries caused Georgia’s coaches to first use him four games into the season. Still, he had only two catches for 25 yards through the seventh game before totaling 14 receptions for 263 yards in the second half of the year. Last season was more of the same, with Conley notching five catches for one touchdown in the first seven games before totaling 15 catches for 274 yards and five scores in the second half.
“Now I have to prove that I’m consistent all year and I have to keep getting better,” Conley said.
2012 review: Conley finished the season with a bang, scoring touchdowns of 49 and 87 yards in the Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska and its touted pass defense. Despite switching to slot receiver in the middle of the season because of injuries, Conley made an impact down the stretch with five touchdown catches in the final five games.
2013 preview: Now that he has learned all three receiver positions, Conley should be on the field a lot more this fall. He was the Bulldogs’ most consistent receiver this spring and figures to form a dynamic trio of receivers alongside Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett. If Conley produces in the first half of the season as he expects, he should easily surpass his receiving totals from his first two seasons in college.
Spring prospectus: Conley wasn’t just Georgia’s most consistent receiver during spring practice, he was named the Bulldogs’ offensive MVP because of his production, toughness and reliable work ethic. In three spring scrimmages, Conley caught 11 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns according to statistics released by Georgia’s sports information staff.
Career potential: At 6-foot-3, Conley is one of Georgia’s bigger receivers and that could create some mismatches against smaller cornerbacks. He has also flashed reliable hands and better speed than one might expect -- remember his blistering pace en route to the end zone on the win-clinching 87-yard touchdown catch against Nebraska? -- so he has all the tools necessary to make a bigger impact as a veteran.
To this point, Conley might best be remembered for catching a deflected Aaron Murray pass and falling down inbounds at the 4-yard line just before time expired in the heart-wrenching loss to Alabama in last season’s SEC championship game. But the junior still has time to ensure that the play against Alabama won’t be his lasting legacy as a Bulldog. Already a good teammate and model citizen, Conley is poised to also become one of Georgia’s top pass-catching weapons over the next two seasons.