Kirby Smart excited to see what near-peak Darnell Washington looks like for Georgia football

Darnell Washington-Kirby Smart-Georgia football
Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0) during Georgia’s practice session in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

ATHENS — It’s hard not to be awestruck every time you see Darnell Washington. It’s like seeing the dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park. On a team full of athletic freaks, the junior tight end towers over his teammates at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds.

Related: First impressions: The most physically imposing Georgia players who stood out on Day One

That weight is just as important as his massive frame, as Washington looks noticeably trimmer as he enters his third preseason camp. It hasn’t been easy for Washington with regards to his weight — something plagued former Bulldog Jordan Davis as well — but entering August, he feels pretty close to peak condition.

“I feel good but I could always feel better in terms of my weight,” Washington said. “Just being able to play more (is important).”

Washington’s head coach went a little bit farther in his praise of the junior tight end. The physical strides Washington made become even more impressive when you consider he spent much of the spring recovering from a broken foot.

“He’s really in a good spot,” Kirby Smart said. “You know, he’s a guy that I came in on Sunday, and he’s out there running on his own on a day that was off. He’s got a purpose. He’s practicing to be driven. And excited to see, you know, what he can do. It’s going to be important that we get him in good, physical conditioning shape to be good to go in this training camp.”

Smart adds that Washington was in the best shape of his Georgia career entering spring practice. But just before the Bulldogs were set to take the practice field, Washington broke his foot. The mammoth tight end missed four games last season due to a broken foot as well.

The injury put a dent in the progress Washington made in the winter months. But it appears he’s gotten back to those peak fitness levels.

“He’s worked tremendously hard putting himself in the best health possible,” Smart said. ”When he got injured, which I think was over spring break, going into spring practice, we thought he was in the best shape he had been in since being here; both body fat composition, body weight, conditioning level.”

Washington spent much of the offseason also working on getting in and out of his breaks on routes. The extra work gives him extra confidence with the multiple foot injuries.

“With my foot injury It’s not the same as before,” Washington said. “So I’ve worked a couple of times to better get in and out of my breaks.”

Last season’s untimely foot injury slowed Washington’s season, as he finished with only 10 receptions in 11 games. He still turned those receptions into 154 receiving yards and a touchdown in the SEC championship game against Alabama but it was not the season many expected from the former 5-star prospect.

Washington’s injury cleared the way for Brock Bowers to see more of the field. In the process, he became one of the best tight ends in the country and helped further unlock the Georgia offense.

Washington recognizes how much more tight end friendly this offense is compared to when he arrived in 2020.

“We didn’t have a Brock. He kind of flipped the switch a little bit,” Washington said.

Add in redshirt sophomore Arik Gilbert, juniors Brett Seither and Ryland Goede and freshman Oscar Delp and you’ve got the best tight end group in the country. Perhaps even

Between Washington’s size and improved physique, Bowers’ speed and quickness and Gilbert’s combination of the two and the tight end room is expected to make life incredibly difficult for opposing linebackers and defensive backs.

“We all have our different abilities, so if we just keep working on our strengths and weaknesses, that will really affect the game,” Washington said.

Kirby Smart excited to see what peak Darnell Washington looks like for Georgia football

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