ATHENS — Six. That’s the number of times so far this season that a pass has been completed to a tight end at Georgia.
Georgia has compiled 463 total passing yards through three games. The tight ends unit accounts for just 53 of those. That’s roughly 11 percent, with 44 of the 53 yards coming against Appalachian State in the season opener.
For senior tight end Jeb Blazevich these numbers, or lack thereof, aren’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of the offense.
“Obviously when we call the passing routes, it’s up to us to get open, and if not, then it’s up to us to get other guys open,” Blazevich said. “As long as our passing game as a whole is doing well and we are able to contribute to that, then that’s all we care about.”
However, whether the tight ends are showing up on the receiving end of passes or not, head coach Kirby Smart has made it clear multiple times that he wants to see more from that unit.
During the broadcast of the Samford game on Saturday, former Alabama center and color analyst for the game, Barrett Jones, had insight into what Smart needs from the tight ends, specifically sophomore Isaac Nauta. Jones was a player during Smart’s tenure at Alabama.
“I think Nauta’s a guy who’s very talented,” Jones said during the broadcast. “We asked Kirby Smart, ‘Why haven’t we seen more of Isaac Nauta? [Smart] was very frank with us. He said, ‘I need to see Isaac Nauta practice better. I need him to bring a champion approach to practice every day. He didn’t like the way that he was approaching practice. He told Isaac, ‘You practice better, you’ll start to have more balls your way.’ That’s the way it happens in games.”
Among the tight ends, Nauta leads the group in receptions with 3 catches for 33 yards. That includes one catch against Appalachian State that was a 16-yard first down pickup.
But that’s a long way from the 2016 stat line for Nauta, who was named to the All-SEC and All-America teams. Nauta finished his freshman campaign as the team’s third-best receiver with 29 catches for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns.
However, there might be no need to panic. Last year after the third week, Nauta had only 3 catches for 16 yards before making his impact felt in Week 5, with 5 catches for 83 yards against Tennessee.
But regardless if the tight ends are receiving or not, Smart said he still wants to see more out of all of the tight ends in multiple facets of the offense.
“At the end of the day, you kind of get how you practice,” Smart said at the media availability time on Monday. “[Tight end] guys practice the right way. They play physical, they block, then they usually get rewarded because our run game is better, the play-action game is better. If they don’t do those things, we usually don’t have a lot of success.”
So, while the stat line for Georgia tight ends in the passing game isn’t exactly a leading statistic among Georgia’s offense, that doesn’t mean that the tight ends have disappeared. And while an improvement in the passing game is something the group is working on, it by no means is the only thing.
“As Coach Chaney says, ‘We all have our fleas coming off of a game,’” Blazevich said. “We all have things that we are wanting to work on whether it be hat and hand placement, running your feet, getting the correct route depth or snapping off the route the right way. … We really focus down on: what’s my role, what’s my assignment, and how can I try to expand my role through practice.”