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Georgia depth chart breakdown: Tight end
“Will Georgia ever target its tight ends more on offense?”
I get this question from Dawg fans a good bit, and it’s understandable why. Georgia has a proud tradition of pass-catching tight ends. Fans have fond memories of Ben Watson, Leonard Pope, Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch lighting up opponents in the passing game and want to see more players like that lining up for the Bulldogs. So they ask me that question a lot.
And if I’m getting it a lot, I can’t imagine how often Kirby Smart is getting it. During spring practice, he even voiced his frustration over questions about tight ends.
“I am so tired of tight end questions,” Smart said in April, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press’ David Paschall . “To be honest with you, I don’t know if they’ve caught it more or less. The end line for me is ‘How many points do you score?'”
Smart has a point, of course. None of Jake Fromm’s top-5 receivers last season were tight ends. In fact, Georgia’s tight ends combined for 245 receiving yards, which would make the entire group just the team’s fourth-leading receiver. And yet the Dawgs won the SEC, won the Rose Bowl and played for a national championship, buoyed by the best offense to come through Athens in years.
So the question we should probably be asking isn’t “Will Georgia ever target its tight ends more on offense?” but rather “Will Georgia ever need to target its tight ends more on offense?”
This season, it doesn’t appear it will. Georgia will probably always be a run-first team under Smart. Despite losing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, there is still a ridiculous amount of talent at tailback that will garner a ton of carries. And although he may pass it a bit more, Fromm has a deep pool of wide receivers he can target. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason to make a point of targeting tight ends.
But just because they don’t need to involve tight ends more doesn’t mean it won’t happen, whether intentional or not. In the postseason staff shakeup, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s duties were changed. In addition to heading the offense and calling plays, he’ll now coach tight ends. He’ll be working with this group every day and become very familiar with their strengths and weaknesses.
If nothing else, the tight ends will have more opportunities to impress Chaney than they did last year, and maybe — just maybe — have a greater chance of him dialing up plays that feature them as primary receivers.
This is part of an ongoing series breaking down Georgia’s post-spring depth chart position-by-position. For links to the other posts in this series, check the bottom of this section.
- Isaac Nauta, junior — Nauta made Georgia fans believe he was the program’s next great pass-catching tight end with 361 receiving yards on 29 catches as a freshman. Through no fault of his own, though, that production dipped to 114 yards on 9 catches as a sophomore. Despite, or perhaps because of, a lack of targets last season, Nauta improved tremendously as a blocker. He’s the most talented tight end to come through the program in years, and has an NFL future whether or not he ever catches another pass at Georgia. I seriously doubt that happens, though, just as I seriously doubt he has 9 or fewer catches next season. He’s too good to not be involved more.
- Charlie Woerner, junior — Woerner is another guy who is talented enough to warrant more targets. He doubled his production from 5 catches for 50 yards as a freshman to 9 catches for 100 yards as a sophomore. I think Nauta is the better receiver and overall player, but Woerner can help the team plenty as a blocker and as a receiver when Fromm sees fit to target him.
- Jackson Harris, senior— Harris has been a role player for Georgia the last two seasons and that should continue his senior year. He’s a much more adept blocker than receiver, so expect him to line up at H-back or fullback on occasion.
- Luke Ford/John FitzPatrick, freshman— These guys prove you don’t have to pass to tight ends often to secure great tight end talent. This pair of 4-star incoming freshmen were two of the best high school tight ends in the nation last year. It’s most likely that these guys will spend their freshmen year working on special teams, but one of them could impress and make a move and get involved on offense.
Depth Chart Breakdown: Running Back | Wide Receiver
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Is Kirby Smart about to sign a new contract?
As we’ve expected for a while now, Smart is about to get paid.
On Wednesday, Georgia put out a news release that the UGA Athletic Association Board’s executive committee would hold a teleconference Thursday to “to discuss and deliberate upon the employment terms and compensation of a public employee.” It’s pretty easy to read between the lines and deduce that it’s Smart — you know, the guy who just led the football team to its best season in three decades.
I couldn’t even venture a guess as to what the dollar amount on this extension will be, but I think it’s safe to say Smart will be one of the highest-paid coaches in college football real soon. Stay tuned to DawgNation for more on this story as it develops.
Dawgs and Cats fighting again
It seems we’re mighty close to reigniting the Georgia-Clemson rivalry.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity recently told the Athens Banner-Herald’s Marc Weiszer that although many want a yearly series, including Dabo Swinney, the two programs could square off in a home-and-home series or on a neutral site as early as 2021.
“I do think down the road you will see Clemson and Georgia playing each other,” McGarity said, according to Weiszer. “I’m not sure about the frequency of it, but I do think you’ll see us play each other in the not too distant future.”
As McGarity noted to Weiszer, he prefers Georgia to play two out-of-conference Power 5 opponents every season, one of them always being Georgia Tech. The Dawgs have Notre Dame on the schedule in 2019 and Virginia in 2020, but is open after that until UCLA in 2025. Clemson only has 2021 and 2024 open in that stretch, as the Tigers are scheduled to play Notre Dame in 2022 and 2023.