Taking A Look: Tight ends
Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0) during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Georgia and Cincinnati at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Over the next couple of weeks, DogWatch will be examining each position group as spring practice nears, and Georgia gets started on prepping for the 2021 season.
So, let’s continue with the tight end position.
It’s time for Washington to shine
Having the addition of LSU tight end Arik Gilbert would be nice, but Georgia fans should be excited about Darnell Washington, who is just as talented. According to the 247Sports Composite, Washington was ranked the No. 23 overall player, No. 2 athlete and No. 1 high product out of Nevada in the 2020 recruiting class. At 6-foot-7, 265-pounds, one can assume why the Las Vegas native is ranked that high.
As a freshman, Washington hauled in seven passes for 166 yards, which doesn’t seem like a lot. But, when J.T. Daniels took over under center, Washington was one of his favorite targets, especially in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl where he caught three passes for 46 yards. He had a season-high 61 receiving yards against Missouri, which was Daniels’ third start. So, one can only imagine what that production will look like next season given that both avoid injuries and the season is played in its entirety.
Here’s one of his catches in the Peach Bowl:
All eyes should be on set on Washington because he’s very physically gifted for his size. Plus, he’s also a couple of inches taller than your average defensive back, which gives him an advantage when going up for passes, especially 50/50 balls. We also saw last season that Washington is one heck of a blocker, too. He’s burly and hard to get around. Imagine a smaller defensive lineman trying to get around him off the line of scrimmage.
In the season opener, Washington showed off his strength and blocking capabilities.
Still, Washington will need to clean up some stuff, but it’s proven that the raw talent is there.
Will Georgia’s tight-end production increase with the talent in 2021?
To say Georgia doesn’t use its tight ends is a little deceiving, at least when you look at some film from the 2021 season.
Under offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Georgia used a ton of two tight end sets in various formations. While UGA might not have used them in the passing game as Florida did with Kyle Pitts, the coaching staff still does incorporate them into the gameplan. The Bulldogs had at least one tight end in on every play last season and there were multiple times where two were in. One would sell a block while the other was running a route downfield. Last year, it also seemed like the tight ends just needed a competent and experienced quarterback to get the rock to them.
Of course, the bottom line was having Daniels take over for Stetson Bennett and D’wan Mathis. This isn’t a knock against them, but it is just evident that Daniels is the better of the three. As a position group, Georgia’s tight ends last season caught 26 passes for 282 yards and two scores. With Daniels under center in the final four games of 2020, the tight ends accounted for 13 receptions and 207 yards. That’s literally half the receptions and a majority of the receiving yards with Daniels in just four games compared to Bennett and Mathis in six games.
Here’s the breakdown:
UGA vs Miss State:
Tre’ McKitty - 1 reception for 5 yards
John FitzPatrick - 1 reception for 8 yards
UGA @ USC:
McKitty - 2 receptions for 46 yards
UGA @ Mizzou:
Darnell Washington - 2 receptions for 61 yards
UGA vs Cincy:
FitzPatrick 4 receptions for 41 yards
Washington 3 receptions for 46 yards
Now, of course, those numbers weren’t consistent, but it shows promise for the future. The Bulldogs don’t retain McKitty but they do add former four-star Brock Bowers out of California. Also, if Ryland Goede can get healthy then he could be a difference-maker if given the chance. For the first time in the last couple of years, UGA looks like it’s set up at the tight end position.
So, yes, it should increase in 2021.
Check out the other Take A Look previews: