WATCH Georgia coach Kirby Smart: Tight end Eli Wolf ‘a weapon for us’
ATHENS — Eli Wolf says it’s called “competitive excellence,’’ knowing how to step up and make the play when the opportunity presents itself.
So far Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley and quarterback Jake Fromm are making the opportunities happen, and Wolf is proving capable of seizing the moments.
It appears to be yet another case of Kirby Smart being able to identify and utilize talent like few other coaches in the nation.
Wolf is intent on making the most of it, and so far he leads the Bulldogs with 84 yards receiving on his five receptions.
“When your number is called, you’ve got to make the play,” said Wolf, who did just that on Saturday with four catches for 73 yards, all in the first half of the 63-17 win over Murray State.
Wolf has caught five passes on five targets this season for the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs through two games. Wolf has stepped into the role formerly held by former UGA star tight end Isaac Nauta.
Smart has likely taken more notice of how Wolf sprung two touchdown runs in the win over Vanderbilt.
Wolf lined up at fullback at the 1-yard line and took out two Commodores on Brian Herrien’s 1-yard run in the Aug. 31 season-opening game.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 1, 2019
Then, in the open field that same night, Wolf tied up a defensive back on James Cook’s 18-yard touchdown run.
“Eli held his block forever out there for James, (and) James basically went untouched,” Smart said last Thursday. “I enjoyed watching that.”
Smart liked watching Wolf make yards after his catches against the Racers, too.
“He caught the ball when he had some opportunities, he made some plays and had some good runs after catch,” Smart said. “I think he’s a talented player and a weapon for us.”
At Tennessee, Wolf became an afterthought in Jeremy Pruitt’s power-oriented offense.
Many thought Wolf might break out during the 2018 season after he led all receivers with five catches in the spring game and Pruitt brought him to SEC Media Days.
Pruitt, however, wanted heavier tight ends to aid an offensive line that was lacking in power. The Vols recruited a JUCO tight end 20 pounds heavier than Wolf, and made him a priority.
Wolf finished his UT career with 9 catches on 10 targets in 26 games.
Wolf made the difficult decision to enter the NCAA transfer portal, and Georgia was first to contact him, drawing his interest away from Ohio State.
Wolf grew up in Ohio setting the Minster High School record for career and single-season catches as a receiver, also placing ninth in the state track meet in the 100 meters.
Former Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who utilized Wolf’s older brother, Ethan, in the Vols’ record-breaking 2016 offense, recruited Eli to be a preferred walk-on.
The hope was that Eli would grow from his freshman weight of 205 pounds into a tight end — brother Ethan weighed 250 — and once he did, Jones placed him on scholarship.
Now at Georgia, the 236-pound Wolf is settling in with eagle-eye Fromm spotting him when he gets open.
“(Wolf) is somebody who has come into the program and really just worked his tail off the entire time he’s been here,” Fromm said Saturday. “He’s put in a lot of work, he’s had a lot of catches in practice, and really it was just a matter of time before he came out and showed it on the field.”
Wolf said he’s ready for whatever comes next in the Georgia game plan, well aware that things can change quickly and his role will vary.
“You have an idea of a game plan, but you never know how it’s going to go or what defense they will run,” Wolf said. “I’m always ready to do whatever the team needs.”
Georgia tight end Eli Wolf
Georgia coach Kirby Smart