ATHENS — John Lilly joked about the unspoken requirement of being a Georgia tight end in 2015: A name starting with the letter J.
The trend starts with Lilly himself and is consistent through all five tight ends on the roster — Jackson, Jay, Jeb, Jordan and Jared.
“Quayvon was in there last year and we started calling him Jayvon,” Lilly quipped. “But it didn’t stick. We had to get him out of there. He didn’t fit in.”
While they all share that similarity, it’s the two youngest that have made their names stand out so far this season. Sophomore Jeb Blazevich and freshman Jackson Harris have seen the most snaps in Georgia’s first two Georgia games.
And with first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer often deploying double-tight-end sets, they’ve been on the field a lot.
“I think it’s something Coach Shottenheimer has done and wants to do,” Lilly said of reliance on tight ends. “That’s going to be a part of what he wants to do offensively. It’s just a matter of who’s up at the time, in terms of who’s in there.”
Blazevich played in 13 games as a true freshman last year and has made 10 starts. Harris made his first start against the Vanderbilt Commodores his past Saturday.
Neither Jordan Davis nor Jared Chapple have gotten to play yet this season. Oddly enough, it’s the fifth-year senior Jay Rome who has played the least so far in the three-man rotation. Rome will play in his 37th game at Georgia when the Bulldogs play host to South Carolina on Saturday.
“As far as Jay and Jackson and Jeb, those guys are all going to play,” Lilly said, “and I think they’re all going to make some big plays for us.”
To this point, their contributions have been primarily as blockers. Blazevich leads the tight ends with two catches for 34 yards. Harris had his first reception last Saturday at Vanderbilt. It went for 10 yards.
Rome still hasn’t caught a pass. But despite his lessened role, he has continued to be the leader among the group.
“I think Jay and Arthur Lynch and Coach Lilly have created a good culture of getting guys in, getting guys prepared and coaching them up fast,” Blazevich said. “Everybody in that room is ready to play.”
Harris and Blazevich have five years of eligibility left between them, so the future at the position seems to be secure. Georgia also continues to recruit the best tight ends in the country.
The Bulldogs already have a commitment from Garrett Walston of Wilmington, N.C. And they’re among the favorites to land Isaac Nauta of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the No. 1-ranked tight prospect in the country.
Should Nauta join them, he’ll add to a foundation that includes the likes of Orson Charles, Leonard Pope, Randy McMichael and Ben Watson.
“There’s great potential there,” Blazevich said. “It’s up to us to make that actuality. And it’s up to [Georgia] to recruit guys.”
Talking about the emergence of the freshman Harris, it reminded Blazevich of his high school coach, Jason Este, who told him to always be working to get better because there will always be someone younger trying to take his spot.
“In this league there’s no such thing as just being talented because that’s not enough anymore,” Blazevich said of Harris. “It takes the dedication, the time in the playbook, and he’s shown all summer that he’s dedicated. I think he really has a mind for it. He has a passion for it. He’s obviously talented enough to do it.”
Blazevich said Harris (6-6, 247) is a better receiver than most realize. He had 1,200 yards receiving and nine touchdowns as a senior at Columbia (Tenn.) Central High. Blazevich pointed to an athletic out-of-bounds catch that Harris made that lit up the Bulldogs’ bench.
“He wouldn’t be on the field if he couldn’t perform like that,” Blazevich said.
Lilly said the three tight ends will continue to share snaps, with the hopes of getting Davis on the field wherever possible.
“You know, it’s a great room to be in right now,” Lilly said of the tight end meeting room. “There are a lot of conscientious guys and really good players.”