Entering the 2018 season, the Georgia Bulldogs will be looking to replace the performance and production of the graduating Jeb Blazevich with a talented and young group of tight ends. And what’s more, they’ll be breaking in Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney as tight end coach (moving over from QB coach to replace the departing Shane Beamer). While there were promising moments out of the TE group in the receiving game during the 2017 season, the focus last year was certainly more on blocking for Georgia’s hyper-productive running game. With Chaney’s new focus on the position group, the projected growth of 2nd year signal caller Jake Fromm, and a few highly-touted new faces on campus in Athens, it isn’t a stretch to hope for more production through the air from the tight ends in 2018.
|#18||Isaac Nauta||JR||Buford, GA||6'4"||240 lbs|
|#42||Mitchell Werntz||FR||Brookhaven, GA||6'4"||220 lbs|
|#44||Peyton Mercer||FR||Twin City, GA||6'5"||222 lbs|
|#45||Luke Ford||FR||Carterville, IL||6'6"||252 lbs|
|#83||Wix Patton||R.FR||Peachtree City, GA||6'6"||241 lbs|
|#86||John Fitzpatrick||FR||Atlanta, GA||6'6"||230 lbs|
|#88||Jackson Harris||SR||Columbia, TN||6'6"||250 lbs|
|#89||Charlie Woerner||JR||Tiger, GA||6'5"||245 lbs|
Obviously, the two Dawgs you should expect to see early and often here are veterans Nauta and Woerner. During the 2017 campaign, both Nauta and Woerner had nine receptions. Isaac Nauta amassed 114 yards and 12.7 yards per catch through the air, while Charlie Woerner notched 100 yards and 11.1 yards per catch. Both will be looking to build on this production in 2018. Though a talented receiving corps (not to mention new additions within the TE group) will be vying for passes in Georgia’s offense, Nauta and Woerner will aim to provide assistance to Fromm on screens and across the middle. Given Fromm and Chaney’s occasional propensity for chucking up the long ball and hoping for the best last season (and the departure of jump ball threat Javon Wims), it would be nice to spread things around a bit more using the two veteran tight ends in 2018.
All that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see early contributions from newcomers Luke Ford and John Fitzpatrick. A big part of Kirby Smart’s #1 ranked 2018 recruiting class, Ford (4-Stars, #3 Tight End, #1 Player in Illinois according to 24/7Sports) and Fitzpatrick (4-Stars, #17 Tight End, #36 Player in Georgia) could both make major contributions. The first thing that sticks out about these young Dawgs is their size. At 6’6” 252 lbs and 6’6” 230 lbs respectively, they are larger tight ends than Georgia had in 2017 (although Fitzpatrick doesn’t carry as much weight on his frame). This could lend itself to a larger role in the passing game than what we’ve seen in the first two years of Chaney’s offense. During their final year of high school, both Ford and Fitzpatrick averaged 10 ypc or higher -- though Fitzpatrick was utilized more through the air by his offense. One thing to keep an eye on is a motorcycle injury Ford sustained to his ankle on August 16. Though it sounds like nothing major, we’ll have to see if it slows his progression in any meaningful way.
With additional veteran leadership from Jackson Harris and depth from a number of other young Dawgs, the entire TE position group should be a strength for a Georgia offense with plenty of strengths to go around. Overall, it may seem like a young group (given the 4 true Freshmen), but Nauta and Woerner should be able to provide valuable experience to balance the bevy of young talent that will be building Georgia’s TE foundation for the future.