Todd Hartley still shining on recruiting trail even with lack of on-field production
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Georgia football recruiting tight end well, even without on-field success
Last season, Georgia’s tight ends combined for 23 catches, 272 yards and 2 touchdowns. That doesn’t exactly scream high-usage or being a key part of the passing offense, especially when you consider those numbers were split mostly between Eli Wolf and Charlie Woerner.
Add in that the man in charge of the position is going into his second year on the job, and there’s not exactly a whole lot for Todd Hartley to sell to prospective tight end prospects.
But that hasn’t stopped him from reeling two top-100 overall prospects for Georgia’s tight end room in each of the past two cycles.
Back in January, he landed the 5-star athlete Darnell Washington, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound monster of an athlete from Las Vegas. It was an impressive win for Hartley, especially going across the country to land a player of Washington’s talent.
On Monday, he pulled off another impressive recruiting win from out west, as Georgia landed a commitment from 4-star tight end Brock Bowers. The No. 92 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings announced his pledge to Georgia over programs like Washington, Penn State and Oregon.
— Brock Bowers (@brockbowers17) August 10, 2020
Hartley celebrated appropriately, tweeting a gif of himself hitting a home run as Barry Bonds. The Bonds reference ties into Bowers’ roots, as he comes from Napa, Calif.
— Todd Hartley (@coach_thartley) August 10, 2020
Landing a player all the way from California in the middle of a pandemic, when visits are prohibited due to the NCAA’s dead period makes Hartley’s work even more impressive. Bowers did manage to take a July trip to Athens to see the town, but he couldn’t meet face-to-face with Hartley.
But thanks to video chatting and an assist from Georgia commits Brock Vandagriff and Chaz Chambliss, the Bulldogs were able to add in another talented tight end prospect for Georgia.
Bowers is a different type of tight end than what Georgia has usually recruited since Kirby Smart arrived at Georgia. Washington, Ryland Goede and John FitzPatrick are all listed at 6-foot-6 or taller.
Bowers comes in at just 6-foot-3. But what he might lack in comparative height, Bowers more than makes up for in athleticism.
Missing the practice vibes 🤞 #3 pic.twitter.com/WsIhiUu8wB
— Brock Bowers (@brockbowers17) May 21, 2020
With Washington and Bowers moving forward, talent shouldn’t be a question for Georgia when it comes to the tight end position. But talent hasn’t exactly been an issue in the past either with this room at Georgia.
The Bulldogs signed Isaac Nauta in 2016 as a 5-star prospect. And Woerner, despite having just nine catches and 78 yards as a senior, was a sixth-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2020 NFL Draft, going before fellow Bulldogs like J.R. Reed, Tae Crowder and Rodrigo Blankenship.
So how does Georgia get more out of the tight end position? Hartley can’t really answer that question, since he’s not the one that is calling plays or directing the offense.
That task will fall to new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. And you can bet that if the tight ends don’t produce to the liking of some, the question of why don’t tight ends get thrown the ball more will become a popular question asked of Kirby Smart on social media.
In Monken’s past four offenses, all of which came at the NFL level, the tight ends averaged just under 800 yards, 65 receptions and 11 touchdowns over the course of a 16-game season. With a giant physical mismatch in Washington and an athlete like Bowers, Monken will have quality options to work into the Georgia offense. And if Monken is able to do that, it continues to make Hartley’s job easier on the recruiting.
While the Bulldogs did land Washington in this past cycle, they also had some high-profile misses at the tight end position. The No. 1 ranked tight end in the country was 5-star prospect Arik Gilbert. He doubled as the No. 1 ranked player in the state of Georgia for the 2020 recruiting cycle.
But he’s now at LSU, in part because of the offense the Tigers displayed last season. LSU’s 2019 tight end Thaddeus Moss had 47 catches for 570 yards and 4 touchdowns, surpassing what Georgia’s entire tight end room did in 2019.
Then there was Theo Johnson, who was the No. 72 overall player and the No. 3 ranked tight end in the 2020 recruiting cycle. He ended up at Penn State after a tightly contested battle with Georgia, Michigan and Iowa.
Johnson praised the job Hartley did recruiting him, but Johnson wasn’t sure how Georgia would get the most out of his abilities.
“I told coach Hartley, ‘I just don’t know how much I’m going to be developed as a tight end.’ If you can show me that then I won’t have any doubts,” Johnson said at the Under Armour All-American Bowl in Orlando last December. “But I had a lot of doubts.
“It was tough making that leap.”
Hartley has shown he’s got no problem winning a big recruiting battle, even without a ton of proof for further development at tight end.
Hartley is also becoming a bigger part of Georgia’s recruiting efforts in Florida, with the likes of past area-recruiters James Coley and Scott Fountain now at other schools. Hartley has experience in the state dating back to his time at Miami. And the Georgia’s tight ends coach did play a role in landing 4-star 2020 quarterback Carson Beck out of Jacksonville, Fla.
From time to time on the popular reality show Survivor, you’ll see that some contestants are able to make fire without the aid of flint early on in the game. This often gives the tribe that is able to do so a boost over the one that can’t, as having fire allows you to boil water and cook rice.
To this point, Hartley has shown that he’s able to start a fire even without some of the seemingly necessary tools to do so. If he gets a little help from Monken and the development of Washington and Bowers, it won’t be long before Hartley is able to really start cooking on with fire on and off the field for Georgia.
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