It’s been a couple of seasons since Georgia could get its tight ends more involved in the passing game. That doesn’t mean talent has been void at the position.
While the quarterback position still needs to be figured out, there won’t be any excuse for the tight ends not to have a bigger role in 2016. On offense, the tight end position is quite possibly the deepest group from top to bottom, featuring a solid combination of experience and young talent.
It’s a group that has head coach Kirby Smart quite excited, not only because of the personnel, but because of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s history of utilizing tight ends at a high rate. Smart noted that when Chaney was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee and Arkansas, he’d use the tight ends in an effective manner that was challenging to him as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.
"He did a really good job with the tight ends," Smart said. "We’ve got a good group there. We’re going to be together with that group but not the same. Not everybody is going to be the same."
What Smart means is there’s a little bit of everything that this tight ends group has to offer.
Although the group loses Jay Rome to graduation, it returns starter Jeb Blazevich and rising sophomore Jackson Harris. Throughout the 2015 season, Harris showed signs of being a strong blocker and short-game receiving threat during his freshman season.
Jordan Davis, a rising junior, isn’t as big as the other tight ends but has the speed to flex out as a slot receiver against slower linebackers. Davis didn’t get too much playing time in 2015 but did have a catch for 24 yards against Georgia Southern, which showed what he can do as a receiving target.
This spring, however, there is one player everyone will be looking at. That’s freshman Isaac Nauta, who enrolled early to get a head start on his college career. Nauta was regarded as the nation’s No. 1 tight end coming out of high school and spent his senior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Assuming Nauta is as good as advertised, he very well could be too good not to put on the field. But Georgia has at least two other tight ends in Blazevich and Harris who need to see the field as well.
Georgia will be adding another tight end in Charlie Woerner, a 6-foot-5 and 249-pounder who spent his high school career running the ball out of the pistol and catching the ball as a receiver. A versatile threat, Woerner could be a flex option for Georgia once he arrives. The tight end position is quite stacked, which explains Smart’s enthusiasm at this time.
Once spring practice kicks off, it will be on the coaching staff – namely Chaney and tight ends coach Shane Beamer – to figure out how best to utilize the tight ends at their disposal. On offense, this is the position with the fewest question marks. At the same time, a player such as Blazevich, who has 413 yards and 3 touchdowns in two seasons, hasn’t had the chance to regularly show his value – at least from a statistical standpoint.
Smart compared the tight end group he inherited – as well as shored up by keeping Nauta and Woerner in the class of 2016 – to a lesson he learned in church. Each tight end, Smart said, brings something unique to the table, which is why he’s eager to see them practice.
"The minister of the church we were going to he was talking about some different things and he made a good point. We always talk about being together but not the same," Smart said. "We’re not all the same but we’re going to be together. The tight end group encompasses that. We got some big dudes who can block. We got some smaller guys who can run and catch. We got some new guys who are really talented."