ATHENS — Mark Richt was not accepting the premise of the question.
The subject was Georgia’s tight ends, who, it was pointed out to Richt on Tuesday, have only caught 11 passes this season. What’s changed with Brian Schottenheimer and the use of the tight ends in his offense, a reporter asked?
“Well I don’t know how that rates to last year,” Richt answered. “You got any stats on that?”
Yes, the reporter answered, Jeb Blazevich had nine catches through six games last year.
“OK, well he might’ve been the only one, I don’t know,” Richt said.
There was no follow-up, but Jay Rome caught seven passes over the first six games last year. So 16 total catches by the tight ends at this point last year, and 11 this year.
That’s not a huge drop-off, but the involvement of the tight ends has been surprisingly meager, considering the preseason talk about how deep Georgia is there. And at its best the offense has involved the tight ends:
In the 52-20 thumping of South Carolina, Jackson Harris, Blazevich and Rome combined for five catches and 68 yards. In the other five games, it’s six catches for 78 yards. There were zero tight end receptions in the loss to Alabama, and only two in the loss to Tennessee.
Richt also got a question about the tight ends on his radio show Monday night. Both times he answered by explaining the idea of “progressions” in Georgia’s passing offense.
“If a guy’s open, we throw it to him. That’s the goal,” Richt said. “Sometimes the tight end is the guy in the progression who breaks open first. Sometimes he doesn’t. We’re not doing really a whole lot different.”
The tight ends are still playing a lot, as Richt and Blazevich pointed out. Georgia is using a lot of double tight-end sets, and is often flexing the tight end out as a receiver.
“We’re still contributing, just maybe with not the same flare,” Blazevich said.
Blazevich has been held without a catch the past two games. He denied being hurt, at least enough that it’s affecting the gameplan.
“There’s a ton of different factors but all I can worry about is me and what I’m doing. So I need to get better,” Blazevich said. “I’m just honored to be a part of this offense in any facet, so if I block all the time and have the glory of a lineman (that’s fine.) I’m still out there. People might not know I’m playing if I’m not getting the ball.”