Georgia wide receivers coach Tony Ball may not be a gambler, but he certainly isn't afraid to play all his cards.
Just don't expect him to show his hand.
That includes the notion that freshman Blake Tibbs might be a candidate to redshirt this fall, and won't see the field when Georgia hosts Buffalo in Saturday's season-opener (12:21, SEC-TV).
"We're continuing to prepare him. We don't talk redshirt. Last year, it might have been Week 5 or Week 6 and Chris Conley hadn't played a rep," Ball said. "We were still bringing him along and boom, the opportunity presented itself. We've got to keep bringing him along, it's a long season."
Tibbs isn't the only youngster hoping to figure into the mix.
Ball said redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley and junior Rhett McGowan (7 catches for 84 yards) make up a group of three who continue to get numerous reps to see if they deserve to be part of the current five-man rotation expected to see the majority of playing time.
Tavarres King (47 catches, 705 yards, 8 touchdowns), Marlon Brown (15 catches, 234 yards, three touchdowns), Michael Bennett (32 catches, 32 yards, five touchdowns), Rantavious Wooten (redshirted in 2011) and Chris Conley[/db] (16 catches, 288 yards, two touchdowns) have no such worries.
Come Saturday, the five figure to be Aaron Murray's top targets against the visiting Bulls.
For Brown, who gets the start at split end, getting the Opening Day start comes as no surprise.
"The dude is ballin," said King, who set a Georgia record for 205 receiving yards in the Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State. "He's just extremely consistent. He's doing everything that's asked of him - the running game, the passing game
he's attacking the ball when it's in the air. He's just looking like a well-rounded receiver right now. It's crazy the steps and strides he's made as a receiver."
"He has and because he stayed healthy, he's been able to make the necessary strides. He has got better. He continues to make strides because he's smart and because he listens," Ball said. "He understands football, but he's got to continue to grow because with each game because when he gets more reps on film, people can study him so he's got to get better and continue to develop what he does."
Conley is also opening some eyes.
After playing exclusively flanker as a freshman, Conley has cross-trained at split end and the practice results have been impressive.
During Georgia's second scrimmage, the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder flashed his potential, leading all receivers with four catches for 114 yards and a score.
"It's a big year for me to show that I can be a consistent receiver, be explosive and a guy who can be accounted for," said Conley, who hooked up with Murray on a 70-yard score. "But we've all (the receivers) had good practices and all the guys are making plays."
Even the hard-to-please Ball has been impressed.
"He's done well. He has. He's done well because he's smart and conscientious," Ball said. "He's done well, particularly learning the inside position because it's different than being outside. He's learning; it's obviously he still hasn't seen it live, but he's learning."
Ball hasn't forgotten about sophomore Malcolm Mitchell, who caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman, but these days is listed as one of the Bulldogs' two starters at corner.
"He asked me some questions about what I saw for this weekend," Ball said. "I'm thinking I'm going to look and see how many snaps did he play that last series. If he didn't play, let's get him over there, let's try to steal him. That's the way we've got to play it. We've just got to steal some time right now."
So far, Mitchell's only true practice time with the offense has basically been after workouts are done.
"He's been doing some things after practice, but that's just been a few specifics. What happens when he hears it all, what's going to be his thought process?" Ball said. "Does he have a good sense of all the signals? There are some new things, so he's got some learning to do. But we'll bring him along."
But for the time being, Ball conceded Mitchell will stay predominantly on the defensive side.
"Right now, we've really tried to limit how much he does because we want him to be able to help our defense and not be over there questioning what he's doing," Ball said. "For his sake, that's what we have to do."