Georgia football-Darnell Washington-red zone
Georgia Bulldogs tight end Darnell Washington (0) runs after a catch against Missouri Tigers linebacker Ty'Ron Hopper (8) during the third quarter in a NCAA Football game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Columbia, Mo. Georgia won 26-22. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Darnell Washington discusses Georgia red zone issues, why he keeps hurdling defenders

ATHENS — Darnell Washington’s recent play has people asking a lot of questions. Why does he always try and hurdle defenders? What was his halftime message to the team when it was trailing against Missouri? What’s it like to send defenders flying?

And chiefly, why isn’t Washington getting the ball more in the red zone?

Just about all of those have answers, whether it be Washington, his teammates or Kirby Smart providing intel about the junior tight end.

That a 6-foot-7 man can find himself in that kind of a position perhaps makes it all the more befuddling that Georgia hasn’t used him in the red zone. Through the first five games, he has just two red zone targets. One against Samford and one against Missouri, with both being balls that were just out of Washington’s reach.

The Georgia tight end is fourth on the team in catches with 10. But he’s turned those 10 receptions into 184 yards, good for the highest yards per reception of any offensive player.

Related: The big reason Darnell Washington made a leap for Georgia football: ‘He pushes and makes plays’

Georgia was able to do so, with Washington playing a key role. He racked up 64 yards on just three catches, with one reception literally sending two Tigers flying in opposite directions.

“He’s really just a better football player because he’s bought into being in shape, bought into playing with toughness, he has bought into the team, and he has helped himself tremendously in terms of our team, helping us being a guy that can go get balls,” Smart said. “I thought he showed that and probably had his best game of his career on Saturday night when we needed him most.”

Washington has grown a lot in his time at Georgia. His stature on this team is as large as he is, emerging as a key leader for the Bulldogs.

The touchdowns will come for Washington, as the hurdles and punishing blows will continue. Because he’s put in the work both on and off the field to be a player that is too important for Georgia and opposing teams to ignore.

“It doesn’t affect him,” tight Brock Bowers said. “He just takes it and keeps going.”

Darnell Washington discusses Georgia red zone issues, why he keeps hurdling defenders

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