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Gainesville's Gaudlock a breakout star at wide receiver

Red Elephants' senior 3 yards shy of 1,000 going into 2nd-round playoff game

POSTED: November 21, 2013 9:50 p.m.

Gainesville wide receiver Jay Gaudlock has made the offseason decision of coach Bruce Miller look like a stroke of genius.

In actuality, the move was a practical one designed to keep the team’s best playmakers on the field.

After losing some key receivers from the 2012 state championship squad, Miller decided during spring practice to make Gaudlock a slot receiver to maximize his physical style of play and ability to catch the ball. The move wasn’t a complete stretch since Gaudlock played as a pass-catching running back during his first three years at Gainesville.

With 3 receiving yards in Gainesville’s (10-1) second-round playoff game Friday at against South Paulding (10-1), Gaudlock will extend his team-leading receiving yards total to 1,000. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at City Park Stadium.

“I really like playing wide receiver and not splitting playing time any more,” said the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Gaudlock, who also leads the team in catches (71) and receiving touchdowns (12).

Gaudlock never hesitated to play wide receiver, after picking up about 600 yards combined between rushing and receiving as a junior. He saw it as a great chance to get back to catching balls from his best friend, Red Elephants quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Gaudlock and Watson started playing backyard football together at age 6 while students at New Holland Elementary. Watson, a Clemson University signee, says that the familiarity with Gaudlock, and all the receivers for that matter, makes on-field communication simple.

Gaudlock had a memorable catch in the season opener against West Forsyth, which sold Miller on the fact that the senior had what it takes to absorb hits from linebackers on a regular basis as an inside route runner.

Against the Wolverines, Gaudlock ran a crossing route, took a solid lick from a linebacker and picked up five more yards after contact to move the chains on a third-and-10 situation. He finished the game with 10 catches for 178 yards.

“Jay’s really excelled at wide receiver,” Miller said. “He’s a tough player and a very coachable kid.

“I could tell when he was a freshman that we would have to find a place from him on the field.”

Gaudlock and Rodney Lackey (42 catches, 639 yards), Gainesville’s other top slot receiver, have all the confidence that Watson will put the ball right where it needs to be.

In turn, Watson (2,810 yards, 37 touchdowns), the state’s all-time leading passer, knows his receivers will make the catch and pick up yardage after contact.

“Having Jay at wide receiver this season has definitely given a boost to the offense,” Watson said.

Miller said that moving Gaudlock to wide receiver helped him keep his five best offensive skill players on the field when Gainesville has the ball.

The Red Elephants coach knew that junior Michael Byrd (1,355 all-purpose yards) was the man he wanted at running back. Gainesville’s outside receivers, Orrin Ragland (16 catches) and Chastin Newman (33 receptions), are generally the deep threats for Watson.

From watching five game highlights of South Paulding, Miller believes the Spartans have almost a mirror image offense of the Red Elephants.

South Paulding likes to spread things out as senior quarterback Chandler Burks disseminates the ball to his playmakers. Burks has thrown for 2,300 yards and is South Paulding’s leading rusher with 1,367 yards on the ground.

Senior Jae Bowen has led the way for their receivers with 50 catches and 741 receiving yards.

“South Paulding is like us if you change the jersey,” said Miller. “They have a great quarterback, running back and skill players all over the field.

“They didn’t get to be 10-1 just by showing up.”

The Spartans have been much more balanced than the Red Elephants in terms of yardage with 2,627 rushing yards and 2,471 passing. Gainesville has gained 3,474 yards through the air, while rushing for 1,896.

Miller believes South Paulding’s opponent that most closely matched his own style of offense was Region 5-AAAAA champ North Paulding, which dealt the Spartans their only loss of the season, 31-28.

South Paulding is making its first playoff appearance in the program’s eight years of existence.

“South Paulding is an up and coming program,” Miller said. “They’re one we’re going to look back on and realize that’s a pretty good football team.”


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