This was the year that Jalen Camp emerged as a top receiving option for Georgia Tech, and that was obvious by the end of the first game.
In the Yellow Jackets’ 41-0 win over Alcorn State, Camp had two catches, more than he made the entirety of 2017, but it was one that didn’t count that made more waves any. In the second quarter, Camp ran a route towards the left sideline, and when he saw that quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s pass was a bit high and wide, Camp reached up and tried to get a hand on it to tip it in bounds.
It just so happened, though, that the ball stuck to his right glove, and he brought it down to his chest for a spectacular one-handed catch, all with a defender wrapped tight around him. It would have counted for around 30 yards, but Camp was called out of bounds on the play.
“I’m going to be a little biased, but I thought I was in,” he said.
Thankfully, it wasn’t Camp’s only chance of the season. His numbers have to be taken in context, given that he was playing in Tech’s passing-light spread option offense, but the South Forsyth alum made a clear leap to being one of the Yellow Jackets’ main receiving options in 2018. He had eight catches, tied for second on the team, for an average of 20.1 yards each, and now gets to play in the second bowl game of his college career, against Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl today.
Camp’s career at South was one of late starts. He didn’t play football in general until he was in 10th grade, and his journey to the Yellow Jackets was staggered as well. Camp was committed to play for Liberty at first, as a defensive back, but as he dominated at receiver as a senior, pulling down 47 catches for 819 yards and 15 touchdowns, the market for his talents on offense revved up.
Camp flipped his intentions to Georgia Tech in December 2015, and even with the prospect of having to conform to a run-first offense, War Eagles head coach Jeff Arnette could sense that it would be a strong fit.
“Jalen’s a big, strong receiver, and that’s what (Tech head coach) Paul Johnson wanted, was big, strong receivers that could block and go make big plays in the passing game,” Arnette said.
Camp is positioned towards to the bigger end of college receivers – he’s currently listed at 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds – and his athleticism helped him get on the field early, as he appeared in 11 games as a freshman. With the loss of Ricky Jeune to graduation after the 2017 season, a space opened up for Camp to get a bigger share of Tech’s yardage.
“All you can really do in this offense is just stay ready and be a teammate and block for your teammates always,” Camps aid. “And then when the play comes your way, and your number’s called, you’ve just got to do your best and try to make a play.”
There should be significantly more opportunities for Camp do to that next year. Geoff Collins, who will become head coach when Johnson retires after the bowl game, is bringing a more pass-heavy offense with him from Temple: The Owls have 3,069 passing yards through 12 games this season, more than triple the Yellow Jackets’ total through the same number of contests.
“I’m definitely optimistic about it,” Camp said. “It’s definitely a change, but I think it’ll be a good change for the receivers. Receivers don’t really enjoy the blocking or whatever, but if it needs to be done, then that’s what they’re going to do. But at the end of the day, all the receivers just want to catch the balls and get all the glamour.”
Camp has a different, even bigger reason for excitement about 2019: His brother, former War Eagles defensive lineman Jamal, signed to play for the Yellow Jackets on Dec. 19. It could be one of the very few times that the brothers get to play on the same field, as Jamal was just a freshman while Jalen was a senior.
Apart from answering a few questions, Jalen didn’t play a huge role in his brother’s recruitment, which mostly came down to Jamal and their father. He’ll certainly be open to helping out once Jamal gets to The Flats, though.
“When he gets here, I get to show him the ropes, show him how things work,” Jalen said. “So that should be fun as well.”