Arguably the biggest news story around the SEC this week centered around Arik Gilbert. The LSU tight end opted out of the season, with rumors and reports surfacing that he might potentially enter the transfer portal.
Gilbert is from Marietta, Ga., and was one of the top prospects in the country in the 2020 recruiting cycle. He’s also from Marietta, Ga., and was a major Georgia recruiting target.
Georgia hasn’t gotten much from its tight ends this season, a recurring theme under Kirby Smart. But the Georgia head coach made it a point to get the ball to Darnell Washington in the third quarter.
Washington was targeted on four passes in the quarter, with three of them coming on consecutive plays. He caught two of the targets for 61 yards. He drew a pass interference penalty on another. It was pretty clear Georgia wanted to get the freshman tight end more involved.
Smart’s comments afterward seemed to only further reinforce those targets for Washington were intentional.
“You can never have enough good tight ends in the SEC,” Smart said. “They’re big, they’re athletic, they can catch the ball. There’s so many things they can do. It’s one of those things that we want as many as we can get and we want to get them the ball.”
— GEORGIA HEROES (@GeorgiaHeroes) December 12, 2020
Washington was one of two tight ends Georgia brought in this offseason, with the other being Tre’ McKitty. The latter arrived as a graduate transfer from Florida State and this will be his final season in Athens.
The Bulldogs also have a commitment from 2021 tight end recruit Brock Bowers out of Napa, Calif. Bowers is the No. 3 tight end in the recruiting cycle and is expected to sign with Georgia next week.
Washington was a 5-star prospect in the 2020 class, though he had the athlete designation. The freshman from Las Vegas now has four catches on the season for 120 yards now, showing he can be an explosive weapon when used.
“Darnell’s been a weapon all year,” Smart said. “It’s us trying to find ways to use him. He has a unique combination of size. He’s a tough matchup. Coach Monken really likes using multiple tight end sets.
“If you can mismatch people and have ability to run the ball but also flex him out and throw the ball, it’s really frustrating.
Smart also made it a point to praise Washington for how much he’s grown and improved over the course of the season. Washington needed to have surgery when he arrived on campus and that has slowed the start to his Georgia career.
That might be the only thing that can really derail the 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end. Washington also might be a good metaphor for the rest of the Georgia offense and the future potential it might have.
“They are hearing plays and concepts for the 50th time instead of the 5th time,” Smart said “So, where that falls, who gets the credit, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re playing better, and we still haven’t reached our peak. I really feel offensively we haven’t been stopped, it’s just that we stop ourselves.”
Whether Gilbert ends up transferring and possibly comes to Georgia is still yet to be seen. Saturday’s performance very much felt like a not so subtle attempt to show him, and the rest of college football, what the Georgia offense can do when it integrates tight ends into the gameplan.
Always. Be. Closing. https://t.co/Ss7ldmyOnq
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 12, 2020
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