Why tight end Charlie Woerner will benefit more than anyone in new Georgia offense
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Why tight end Charlie Woerner will benefit more than anyone in new Georgia football offense
In the early days of spring practice, it’s clear that Georgia’s offense is going to be different in 2019 than it was in 2018. And that should be very good news for senior tight end Charlie Woerner.
Part of this is due to the change in offensive coordinator. The Bulldogs promoted quarterbacks coach James Coley to replace Jim Chaney, who left for Tennessee. And based off the comments by Woerner, it should be expected to see the Bulldogs air the ball out a little more under Coley compared to his predecessor.
“His first instinct would be to throw,” Woerner said Thursday. “Just knowing him, every G-Day game (Coley) is the offensive coordinator on one team, and Chaney is on the other, and you look at the stats and it’s a lot more pass-heavy on Coach Coley’s team than Chaney’s.
“Chaney is just a little more old-school running the ball, which I didn’t mind that either, but (Coley) likes to throw more than Chaney.”
For some perspective, Georgia threw the ball on 39 percent of its offensive plays in 2018. In Coley’s last season as an offensive coordinator — Miami in 2015 —his team threw the ball on 52 percent of its plays. In the two seasons with Jake Fromm under center, Georgia never threw the ball more than 40 percent of the time.
That figures to change in 2019, given that Fromm is returning for this third season as Georgia’s starting quarterback. He made big strides in 2018, as he threw for 30 touchdowns compared to just 6 interceptions.
But Fromm will also be breaking in a new set of pass catchers in this coming season. Georgia football must replace four of its top five pass catchers from the 2018 team. Two of those players, Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley, figure to be second round picks in the upcoming NFL draft.
Georgia has options this spring, with the likes of Jeremiah Holloman, Tyler Simmons, Demetris Robertson and Woerner all returning. And more weapons are on the way for Fromm and the Georgia offense. Incoming freshmen George Pickens, Dominick Blaylock and Makiya Tongue will all arrive this summer, as will graduate transfers Lawrence Cager and Eli Wolf.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart wished he had some of those incoming players already in Athens. But Smart added that he knows there’s already a lot to work with the current group of pass catchers.
“I’m really excited about seeing the new wideouts go out and compete and play, and unfortunately, there are no early guys in at that position so we’ll get to see a lot of them at fall camp, but there’s a lot of guys who’ve been here that haven’t had an opportunity to really go out and play in the forefront and being thrust in the forefront,” Smart said. “So that’s a big position of need for us, and we’re going to get though watch those guys compete.”
This is why Woerner could see a significant jump in production. He’s played a complimentary role to Isaac Nauta in the last couple of seasons. But with Nauta moving on to the NFL, and Woerner being the only Georgia tight end with more than 10 catches on the roster, Woerner may be an even bigger beneficiary from Coley than Fromm.
In Coley’s time at Miami, tight ends averaged 49 catches per season. Under Chaney, Georgia’s tight ends averaged 35 catches per season.
“I’m excited for Charlie,” Nauta said. “He’s been so unselfish throughout our entire careers. I’m excited to see him make a lot more plays in the passing game and get more touchdowns.”
As a junior, Woerner had 11 catches for 148 yards. Smart also praised Woerner’s leadership ability, his play on special teams and the strong rapport he has with Fromm.
“Jake (Fromm) has a comfortable relationship with Charlie. He feels good with him,” Smart said.
Georgia still brings back a lot of talent at running back, highlighted by D’Andre Swift. It returns six offensive linemen with starting experience. And yet, you get the feeling that a lot of Georgia’s success in 2019 is going to come by how well they throw the football. Given how Clemson and Alabama have reinvented themselves into dominant passing attacks, it only makes sense that Georgia do the same.
Given Fromm’s comfort with Woerner and Coley’s increased focus on tight ends, Woerner could have a very big senior season.
Justin Houston finds a new home
Former Bulldog Justin Houston had to wait a little longer than some to find out where he’ll be playing football for the 2019 season. But it seems like the wait ended up being worth it.
Houston reportedly agreed to two-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday that will pay him $24 million. That’s a nice little recoup of value for Houston, who was set to make over $15 million with the Chiefs this season, before Kansas City cut him shortly before the start of free agency.
The former Georgia Bulldog was still a very productive player last season, even as he enters his age 30-season. Houston racked up 9.0 sacks last season, while also forcing five fumbles as well. The Colts had some money to burn, as they entered free agency with over $100 million in cap space.
The Colts were one of the more pleasant surprises last season, as they won 10 of their final 12 games and advanced to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. With a strong veteran pass rusher in Houston added to the mix, it’s clear the Colts are making a Super Bowl push for the 2019-20 season. Houston nearly won one with Kansas City this past season, as the Chiefs lost in the AFC championship game.
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