Position Plus/Minus: A deep dive into the tight end position for Georgia football
Every Tuesday, we’re going to take a deep dive on every Georgia position in the run-up to the 2020 season. Georgia figures to have one of the most talented teams in the country and the Bulldogs have a number of talented players across the board. But there are still some questions that have to be answered if the Bulldogs are to achieve their end goals.
This week we take a look at the tight end position.
PLUS: Power Five experience
For the second straight offseason, Georgia brought in a graduate transfer to bolster the tight end position. But unlike Eli Wolf, who came to Georgia with just nine catches in his time at Tennessee, Tre McKitty comes into the program with significantly more proven production.
In the past two seasons, McKitty caught 49 passes for Florida State, while often playing in an offense that no one would describe as great. There are shades of Lawrence Cager in McKitty, in the sense that he’s entering a more stable program in coming over from Florida State, which made a head coaching change this offseason.
Cager proved to be incredibly valuable to the Georgia offense a season ago, and McKitty has the chance to do so as well. Georgia has major questions at the wide receiver position, and someone like McKitty, who caught 23 passes a season ago, can help up out Georgia’s new offense.
Minus: Lack of returning production
Of the three returning tight ends for Georgia, John Fitzpatrick, Ryland Goede and Brett Seither have combined to catch one pass in their Georgia careers.
With Wolf and Charlie Woerner both on NFL rosters, the Bulldogs will be looking for at least one of these three to step-up this coming season. Fitzpatrick is the most experienced of the three, as he’ll be a redshirt sophomore this season. Goede and Seither both redshirted in 2019.
Fitzpatrick, Goede and Seither do have the advantage of having worked with tight ends coach Todd Hartley before so they do have a leg-up over the two newcomers in the new tight end room. But the trio has yet to prove that they’ll be able to replace what either Woerner or Wolf brought to the team.
Plus: 5-star addition
The aforementioned second newcomer to the Georgia tight ends room is Darnell Washington. The Las Vegas product was one of the biggest recruiting wins for Georgia in the 2020 cycle, as the Bulldogs beat out the likes of Tennessee and Alabama for the 5-star prospect.
Washington is the highest-rated prospect in the room and he is also the biggest, as he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. His massive size could prove to be valuable for Georgia in the redzone, as he more often than not towers over opposing defenders.
If Washington is able to work himself into playing shape and adjust to the physical rigors of college football, he’ll have an opportunity to be one of the most productive freshmen from the 2020 signing class, which finished ranked No. 1 in the country.
Minus: Uncertainty about usage
It seems like every season, one of the more frequently asked questions is why doesn’t Georgia target the tight ends more. It began back in the days of Isaac Nauta, who caught 29 passes as a freshman only to see that number drop to nine as a sophomore. But in that sophomore season, Georgia went on to play for the national championship.
Last season, Georgia’s tight ends combined for 23 receptions. But that was under the direction of James Coley, who is now the tight ends coach at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs brought in Todd Monken to replace Coley, and Monken brings a wealth of experience from the NFL and collegiate levels.
In his last season as a play-caller — which was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018 — tight ends OJ Howard and Cameron Brate combined for 64 catches, 854 yards and 11 touchdowns. But as Southern Miss’ head coach in 2015, the tight ends combined for just 13 total catches.
Like the rest of Georgia’s offense, the tight end position will be a mystery until we see it on the field. As of this moment, Georgia is set to do so against Virginia on Sept. 7 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
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