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Brant Sanderlin/AJC
UGA TE Isaac Nauta

Tight ends could be the key to Georgia’s offense in 2017

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Didn’t I treat right, now?

Depend on the end

Coach Kirby Smart might be worried about Georgia’s defense right now, but I’m not. He seems like the kind of perfectionist who wants the best out of his players every single time they touch the field and gets pissed when he doesn’t get it. That’s exactly what you want from your coach, but from where I’m sitting, this defense appears to have all the makings of a well-oiled machine. Not only does it have talent, it has the experience to back it up. It may not be where Smart wants it now, but I expect it will be by the time fall rolls around.

I am not so confident about the offense. Although the offense returns Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Jacob Eason, it still lacks a formidable offensive line and dependable and tested wide receivers. There also growing pains that come with trying to build a power run offense. Despite the tweaks that are coming from Jim Chaney, I’m not convinced he can do enough to modernize this scheme to face SEC defenses. I’m even less confident he has the play-calling acumen to turn those tweaks into an advantage for Georgia.

With Chubb and Michel holding down the backfield, I’m convinced the run game will be fine, in spite of what could be a more talented but still less experienced and effective offensive line than last season. Even though the duo was limited last season, Chubb and Michel still proved capable and competent most of the time. And with them trying to prove something in their senior seasons, I think they’ll show their doubters they are wrong. Offensive line be damned. Give Chubb the ball enough times and he’ll get his.

The passing game is where the real issue lies. And as good as Eason can potentially be, he needs receivers around him to make plays. With Isaiah McKenzie headed to the NFL, there’s no one to fill that void yet

That’s where the tight ends come in. Georgia’s collection of tight ends — Isaac Nauta, Jeb Blazevich and Charlie Woerner — have the potential to be the engine for Georgia’s passing game, supporting Eason through the air until he forges a better connection with some of his wideouts.

Let’s start with Nauta. The sophomore was UGA’s third-leading receiver in 2016 with 361 yards and was already slated to be a prime target of Eason’s next season. The two came in as freshmen together and had an immediate connection. Hopefully, that connection has grown in the offseason and the duo has improved their timing to eliminate some of the drops from a season ago. The two seem comfortable working together, but, regardless, Nauta is one of the few somewhat tested receivers, so he’ll need to be depended upon this season.

Blazevich is a bit more interesting. Despite starting 11 games last season, Blazevich caught just 6 passes for 69 yards. He only has 482 yards receiving for his career and his receiving production has dropped each of his three years on campus, going from 269 to 144 to 69. His overall catches also dropped during that span, from 18 his freshmen season.

Despite those meager numbers, Blazevich is a senior and will be one of the leaders on this offense. He’s more adept at blocking than catching, but with Eason needing targets, it would behoove him to take the step many expected after his freshman season and get more involved in the passing game instead of less. He’s a big target who could make some small defensive backs pay. Perhaps his lack of use these last few years could afford Georgia the opportunity to get sneaky and look for him when the defense is least expecting it, a la Alabama and O.J. Howard.

Which brings us to Woerner. Woerner was far less-heralded than Nauta, but he’s more athletic, built more like a large receiver than a tight end. And wouldn’t you know it, a large receiver is one thing that this offense desperately needs. When Smart spoke about Woerner recently, he emphasized that Woerner still needs to develop while hinting that big things were possible for the end from Tiger, Ga.

“Charlie has an exceptional skill set of he can run fast, he can come in and out of breaks, and he’s a pretty good blocker. So, it’s growth for him, development, having a lot of confidence to play in space. And then being able to block really big people inside. We try to put him in those situations every day in practice. Now, he’s a kid that works too now; he comes to work every day. He’ll fight you tooth and nail.”

Woerner had 5 catches for 50 yards in 2016 and that should improve by a good bit this season. I think it would be incumbent upon Georgia to try and improve it a lot. He has the combination of size and quickness that can be a nightmare for defenses, especially if he pops out to receiver and matches up with a corner. And with Georgia’s lack of size at receiver, Woerner becoming a dependable target could be quite the boon for the Bulldogs offense.

Gymdogs head to regional

It’s a big weekend for Georgia gymnastics as the Gymdogs travel to Gainesville to compete in the regional stage of the the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. The Gymdogs will face host Florida as well as Missouri, Penn State, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

“We’re excited,” Georgia coach Danna Durante said. “We’ve been to Gainesville already this year, so we know the arena and we know the equipment. Being in the SEC, every week feels like the big stage. Coming off of the SEC Championship, there were some things that we did, things that we learned about ourselves. To be able to take that and build on it over the next week and a half of practice is going to be great for our whole team.”

A top-2 finish will be enough to keep the Gymdogs alive in the tournament. Should they advance, they’ll compete in the NCAA semifinals in St. Louis, with the possibility of going on to challenge for the national title in the Super Six.

Dawgs at WrestleMania

Get pumped because with the weekend comes the 33rd edition of the Showcase of the Immortals, WRESTLEMANIA. I’m sure there are some of those of you snickering about watching pro wrestling right now — and to you I say, grow up and watch these grown men pretend to fight each other — but Bulldog fans may have an interest the event this year.

That’s because the main event features former Georgia Bulldog and current WWE Universal champion Bill Goldberg taking on “The Beast” Brock Lesnar.

Although there are no more Bulldogs wrestling this weekend, a couple of Georgians will participate. “The Phenomenal” A.J. Styles from right down the road in Gainesville will face Shane McMahon, while Marietta’s own Xavier Woods will share hosting duties with his tag-team partners, The New Day.

You can get a free month-long trial of the WWE Network here. Check it out if you wanna cheer on a Dawg this Sunday.


Good dog

Have a great weekend, people of Earth.