ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs waited four seasons for this.
Reggie Brown, who came out of high school as one of the country's most touted receivers, is finally beginning to deserve some of the hype. He had another big game Saturday, catching seven passes for the second week in a row and setting career highs with 104 yards and two touchdowns.
"I'm getting there," Brown said, sitting in the locker room after a 31-7 victory over then-No. 25 South Carolina. "I'm not there right now, but I'm making plays. I'm starting to live up to some of my potential."
His emergence couldn't have come at a better time for Georgia (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), which moved up one place to No. 7 in The Associated Press rankings released Sunday.
Top receiver Fred Gibson is bothered by a sore hamstring and won't play this week in a crucial road game against 11th-ranked LSU.
If Brown keeps playing like this, Gibson's absence won't be so noticeable. The fourth-year junior already has 15 receptions for 215 yards - not far off his numbers for all of last season.
"I think Reggie has taken the pressure off himself," teammate Damien Gary said. "Instead of trying to live up to the hype, he's focusing on what he's got to do. You see what he can do. He's making some big plays."
Brown was one of the nation's top prospects at Carrollton High School, even though he missed part of his senior year with a broken leg. That was just the first of his setbacks.
He failed to graduate high school on time and had to sit out the 1999 season. After finally enrolling at Georgia, Brown struggled through his freshman season with only 13 catches for 143 yards.
Three games into the next season, Brown tore up a knee and had to take a medical redshirt. He came back in 2002 to start five games, but still failed to make a major contribution as the Bulldogs won their first Southeastern Conference championship in 20 years. He finished with 23 catches for 296 yards and two touchdowns.
"Two years ago, quite frankly, he was struggling to catch the football. Then he tore up his ACL," coach Mark Richt said. "Last year, he just wasn't as consistent as he needed to be."
That's all changed. Brown moved up to the first team after the season opener and has responded with the best two games of his career.
"Reggie has taken it up a notch," Richt said. "He deserved to start. It happened just in the nick of time."
Brown caught a couple of short touchdown passes from David Greene, but the receiver also got loose for some big plays. He hauled in a 21-yard pass that set up his 5-yard touchdown catch, and a 36-yard catch led to Michael Cooper's short touchdown run.
Brown could have had three touchdowns, but one was wiped out by a penalty when the Bulldogs didn't get enough players on the line of scrimmage. They had to settle for a field goal.
That was about the only sour point for Brown, who expects the Bulldogs to do just fine while Gibson is recovering.
"He's not the whole offense," Brown said. "We've got so many great receivers. We can all go out and play good without Fred. When he comes back, we'll have an even better offense."
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