August 31, 2009

How much will tight ends be part of the plan?

You have to go back a couple of years to find the last time the tight end played truly an integral role as far as Georgia's passing game is concerned.

That should be about to change.

With the continued development of redshirt sophomore Aron White, plus the addition of freshmen Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, don't be surprised if Bulldog quarterback Joe Cox looks their way quite a bit when Georgia opens its season Saturday at Oklahoma State.

"We've got some healthy bodies there now, and we've got some young guys who are bringing lots of energy to our program," head coach Mark Richt said. "I like what I'm seeing right now. A year ago, our tight end position just about gave out, so I have to think we'll be more productive there compared to last year."

Last season, tight ends accounted for only 10 of Georgia's 246 receptions, with the oft-injured Tripp Chandler leading the way with five catches for 58 yards and one touchdown.

White was next with three for 88 yards, but scored two touchdowns, including a 48-yarder in Georgia's win over LSU.

Of course, if you play tight end for Georgia, you have to know how to block as well.

"If the tight end is in the game and people understand that we are serious about running the football, most defenses are going to have to play base," Richt said. "If you have a tight end that is a legitimate blocker but can catch the ball pretty well, you can get some matchups with linebackers and safeties."

That's where Charles comes in.

At 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, the Tampa, Fla. natives the Bulldogs another option that can get down the field and make plays.

Richt has even hinted that Charles will be used as a "hybrid receiver" in certain situations. So far tight ends coach John Lilly likes what he's seen.

"I think he's done pretty well. It's still hard to simulate because there's nobody in the stands, but for most guys when you get out there between the white lines and once that first hit gets delivers and the ball gets snapped, it slows down for them and they go play," Richt said. "I think it will be an interesting deal."

It could well be.

Charles has been impressive in each of Georgia's three scrimmages and both Cox and backup Logan Gray have seemed to develop a good rapport with the youngster in all types of on-field situations.

"You try to put every position and every player in position under as much - for lack of a better word - duress as you can in practice," Lilly said. "Coach Richt has done a good job of creating like with this scrimmage (Wednesday) a game-like feel. It's even different than a lot of years because we're not opening at home and certainly the crowd is going to be into it, and it will be different for the new guys as well as some of the veterans."

But so far, so good:

When Georgia started preseason, Lilly gave the tight ends a four-week goal, steps that needed to be followed prior to lining up against the Cowboys.

"Go into the first game, I don't know if you ever think you know they're ready, but it's coming any way. We're going to tee it up," Lilly said. "We'll see what happens. I think they've reached that four-week go, and I believe by the time we get done with Week 5 they'll be ready to go."

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