Georgia’s odd couple in a tight end spot

semerson@macon.comAugust 14, 2012 

ATHENS -- It’s an odd pairing.

Arthur Lynch grew up playing ice hockey in Massachusetts. Jay Rome is a country kid from south Georgia.

“He grew up on his grandfather’s farm,” Lynch said. “And I didn’t.”

“He messes with me all the time about being country,” said Rome, who returns the favor by making fun of Lynch’s accent. “And him being a Boston brawler.”

And yet they do have plenty in common. They both love basketball. They are both majoring in history at Georgia. They have bonded over a shared experience that was at times difficult.

But most importantly, they bond -- rather than compete -- over playing the same position and the weight that comes with it.

For the past three years, the Georgia tight ends were Orson Charles and Aron White. They were skilled receivers and a boon to the offense.

Now it’s Lynch and Rome. Most would view that as a competition for precious playing time. They claim they don’t. They lump themselves together.

“It’s been a lot of talk about what we had to do, with Orson and Aron leaving,” Rome said. “But I think me and Arty have took it upon ourselves to block out the talk that’s been going on, the good and the bad.”

Both will play; that much is certain. For now, Lynch is the starter. He is a junior, while Rome is a redshirt freshman, so Lynch knows the offense better and is a better blocker.

“Obviously you go by what you see every day in practice,” Georgia tight ends coach John Lilly said. “Arty, he knows exactly what we want done, exactly how we want it done. I think Jay has learned extremely quickly in a year on campus and kind of knows what, but doesn’t know how we want it done. He’s made progress in that area.”

Lilly then points out that the season starts in a few weeks, and that’s when players separate themselves again. Rome would seem to have the potential to do that. He was one of the nation’s top tight end recruits coming out of Valdosta and played in the Under Armour All-American game.

But upon Rome’s arrival in Athens, he was blocked by Charles, White and Lynch. So Rome redshirted and passed the time playing for the Georgia men’s basketball team.

While hoops fulfilled some competitive angst, Rome still found it hard not playing football. He found a good sounding board in Lynch, who redshirted in 2010, his second year on campus.

“I know once or twice when I was coming down on myself on redshirting, Arty sat down with me,” Rome said. “We just kind of talked, and he kind of encouraged me on how redshirting wasn’t a bad thing. Me and Arty have a lot more in common than you might seen with one coming from south Georgia and one coming from Massachusetts.”

So what does each bring to the position this year? The temptation is to pigeon-hole each into a different specialty: Lynch the blocker and Rome the pass-catcher. After all, in his two years of playing Lynch has just two catches, which is how many Rome had in this year’s spring game, when he also had 74 receiving yards.

But Lilly says it’s not that simple.

“It’s been over-and-over when the other guys were here too. Everybody saw guys like Orson and Aron as receivers, and Arty and (Bruce) Figgins as blockers,” Lilly said. “Probably Orson and Aron were better blockers than people gave them credit for, and Arty’s a better receiver than people give him credit for.”

As for Rome’s blocking ability, Lilly said, “He’s developing.”

Georgia head coach Mark Richt grants a few differences between the old and new tight ends. Lynch and Rome are bigger, and thus less likely to be flexed out to receiver, as White and especially Charles often would be.

“It’s a different combo,” Richt said. “The other two, both of them were lighter, and both of them would be more guys that you’d feel could penetrate the field better -- but not a whole lot better. I mean these guys run pretty good. They’re bigger men, and they’re pretty good blockers, I think.”

Lynch and Rome understand they will be compared with their predecessors, but hope it will stop soon. Lynch said he would like to “turn the page.”

“Our goal is to go out there and not do it with our mouths, but do it on the field,” he said.

And one goal that never comes up, when talking with Lynch and Rome, is the desire to separate competitively from the other. The feeling is they’re in this together.

“I feel like Arty’s one of the guys that if I’m ever in a bind I can call him and he’ll do whatever he can to help me,” Rome said.

“If people want to link us together that’s fine, because I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else,” Lynch said. “He’s one of my good friends. He’s like a brother to me.”

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