UGA Football

Nauta embraces blocking role with Georgia going run-heavy

Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta (18) breaks away for a touchdown against Mississippi State.
Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta (18) breaks away for a touchdown against Mississippi State. Georgia Sports Communications

It was an impulsive decision for Isaac Nauta, one that came before Georgia’s thus-far undefeated season started. One day, Nauta, whose hair is naturally brown, decided to dye his thinning mop blonde. His mom, a former hairstylist, dyed it for him.

“There’s so much stress in this life,” Nauta said. “I never know when my hair’s going to go, so I might as well do something with it while I can.”

Inside Georgia’s tight end room, Nauta stands alone on one end of a spectrum of personalities. Walking into Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday, tight end Jeb Blazevich wore a light blue checkered button down under a navy blue blazer. Jackson Harris wore a white Georgia polo with a sport coat. Nauta donned a black turtleneck underneath his blazer and wore sunglasses — even though the sky was overcast.

“It matches his personality,” wide receiver Javon Wims said of Nauta’s hair. “He’s a peacock, you got to let him fly.”

Before Georgia started preseason camp and Nauta’s hair was still brown, the tight end was placed on the John Mackey Award watch list, along with a few dozen other players. The award is given to the nation’s top tight end.

After finishing his freshman season third on the team in receiving yards (361), Nauta seemed poised for a breakout year. He thought as much, too, saying it would be “awesome” to lead the team in receiving yards.

“This year is going to be the next step for me to even go bigger than what I did last year,” Nauta said Aug. 16.

Halfway through Georgia’s season, Nauta’s personal statistics — five receptions for 77 yards and one touchdown — are underwhelming. But Nauta believes he has improved since last season, particularly as a blocker.

For Nauta, one of the most satisfying sights in a game is looking up from a pancake block to see one of Georgia’s tailbacks running down the field.

Georgia hasn’t had to throw the ball much this year, often racing out to large leads, which has limited the targets for all of Georgia’s pass-catchers — not just Nauta. Instead, Georgia’s receivers and tight ends have spent most of their time blocking.

“Our offensive line has been physical, just been beating on people,” said Wims, who had never blocked before arriving at Georgia. “I’d rather us run the ball a ton and win than throw the ball a ton and lose.”

Head coach Kirby Smart said at some point, the Bulldogs will have to throw the ball to win. Within the game, Smart said, the Bulldogs call plays based on the flow of the game and what the opposing defense presents. It’s in practice that Georgia develops its passing attack.

“I think we do have a really good passing game,” Nauta said. “We just haven’t had to use it because (Nick) Chubb and Sony (Michel) and those guys have been straight running it and the (offensive line) has been running through people. It’s always ready and available. We’re always ready to use it.”