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Backup WRs may play bigger role for No. 5 Georgia

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Backup WRs may play bigger role for No. 5 Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Some backup wide receivers may have more prominent roles as Georgia tries to play its way into the SEC championship game.

One month after losing leading receiver Michael Bennett for the season with an injured right knee, No. 5 Georgia is adjusting to the loss of Marlon Brown as it prepares to play at Auburn on Saturday night. Brown, who shares the team lead in receptions with Tavarres King, tore his ACL in last week's 37-10 win over Mississippi.

King and Malcolm Mitchell are left as the leaders of the depleted unit. Rantavious Wooten, Chris Conley and Rhett McGowan could play bigger roles against Auburn.

``Certainly, people are going to have to step up,'' said King, a senior. ``We're going to need everybody. It's all hands on deck.''

Brown and Bennett each had four touchdown catches. King has six scoring catches; no other player has more than two.

Brown, King, Wooten and Mitchell caught touchdown passes from Aaron Murray in the win over Ole Miss. Brown had a team-leading 113-yards receiving, including a 66-yard touchdown pass, before hurting his knee.

Including tight ends and running backs, 11 Georgia players had catches in the game. It was a show of strength that caught the attention of Auburn coach Gene Chizik.

``Even though they've had a couple of injuries, the next guy steps up to the plate,'' Chizik said. ``Everybody understands they are where they are offensively because they do have explosive guys and they're very efficient at what they do.''

Georgia can win the Eastern Division and clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game by beating Auburn.

Murray had 384 yards passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions for the Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) against Ole Miss.

King and Mitchell are expected to be Murray's top targets against Auburn. Murray said Brown, like Bennett, was a strong receiver who could break free from defensive backs at the line and when making catches.

``It's tough losing both of those guys, especially because they're so physical,'' Murray said. ``Those are guys you can play on the weak side, in the slot, in both slots on the weak side. You can move them around, which was huge in our offense.

``I feel bad for Marlon, it being his senior year. It's not the way he wanted to go out. But I know we have guys who can step up. They've got to be ready to go.''

Murray mentioned freshman Justin Scott-Wesley as one of the players who has to take a bigger role.

Scott-Wesley has only one catch, a 43-yarder against Florida Atlantic. Richt also mentioned Scott-Wesley, saying the freshman ``is going to get a little more opportunity.''

Mitchell has re-emerged at receiver after opening the season at cornerback. Mitchell has 26 catches, including 24 in just the last five games.

King leads the team with 27 receptions for 551 yards.

``Tavarres King is an outstanding player,'' coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. ``He's a guy we believe in and trust to do well. Malcolm Mitchell has proved to be a play-maker, without any question.''

Richt has kept Mitchell familiar with the defensive schemes in case he is needed at cornerback again. Richt said Mitchell's practice time on defense ``will be diminished just a little bit more'' after Brown's injury.

King and Mitchell are established receivers, but there's little experience behind the two. McGowan, a junior, is a former walk-on who had two catches against Ole Miss.

McGowan has been best known as the player who usually makes fair catches on punt returns. Now he's hoping for an expanded role on offense as Georgia adjusts its depth chart at wide receiver.

``It's definitely a lot of experience gone,'' McGowan said of Brown and Bennett. ``I just think it forces everyone else to be that much more prepared. Top to bottom, that just puts that much more on everybody. There are a lot of people who can play in there.

``I think everyone is ready, everyone is focused. If that means my number is called more, that's fine and I'll be ready.''

NOTES: Richt said senior DE Abry Jones, who has missed the last two games with a left ankle injury, will not return. Jones had 17 tackles in seven games. Garrison Smith and Cornelius Washington are the projected starting defensive ends against Auburn. ... Richt began his weekly news conference by saying he voted ``about a week or two ago. ... Richt said OG Chris Burnett (left shoulder) ``is not out of the question'' for returning this week. He hurt the shoulder in the first half of the Ole Miss game.

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The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list

Every offseason the NFL Network polls a number of current players to determine the Top 100 stars in the league.

It's a fun discussion topic during an otherwise slow time in the football calendar, and while the rankings carry no official meaning, it would be silly to dismiss the process altogether. After all, these are players voting for their fellow players. 

Over the last few seasons, the Redskins have seen a various number of their players make the list. Trent Williams is a mainstay, Jordan Reed made an appearance, and while he was playing in Washington, QB Kirk Cousins made the list. 

For example, in 2017, Cousins ranked 70th on the NFL Top 100. That same season, while quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, Smith came in at 81 on the list. 

Now Redskins QB, there is a bit of a mystery surrounding Smith.

The NFL has revealed numbers 100 to 11, and Smith hasn't made the list. Cousins, now a Viking, landed 94th, the first QB on the list.

Another 10 QBs have been named to the Top 100: Jimmy Garoppolo (90), Derek Carr (60), Philip Rivers (56), Case Keenum (51), Deshaun Watson (50), Jared Goff (38), Matt Stafford (31), Matt Ryan (29), Ben Roethlisberger (18) and Russell Wilson (11).

Smith had the best statistical season of his career in 2017, and he led the NFL in passer rating. He certainly belongs higher on the Top 100 than a number of the quarterbacks listed above, particularly young players without his track record of success like Keenum, Watson or Goff. 

But does Smith deserve a Top 10 ranking in the NFL?

For Smith to make the list, it will mean a Top 10 ranking. Consider too that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz have not yet landed on the Top 100. All four of those players seem like locks for the Top 10, which will be revealed next Monday night on NFL Network. 

It might seem surprising for Smith to land in the Top 10 of the NFL Top 100, but it would make zero sense for him to be left off the list altogether. 

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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