The Georgia Bulldogs used to be a a pipeline for tight end talent. Look at the rosters of some of the top NFL teams in the league and you will find some familiar names.
Ben Watson, Martrez Milner, Leonard Pope, Randy McMichael, and Jermaine Wiggins all wore the red and black—all were key parts of some stellar Georgia teams.
However, in recent years, constant injuries to the offensive line coupled with some tight ends developing a propensity for dropping more balls than they catch have made the position less of a role in the offensive scheme.
Last season, the total output of all tight ends was a mere ten catches for 178-yards.
Offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo intends to involve the tight end more this season. He hopes to bring the position back into the prominence that it began to gain three-years ago after, then senior, Martrez Milner completed a season of 425-yards on thirty catches.
If Bobo intends to recapture that glory, there is no time like the present as he will have a nice group of young talent to pull from next season.
In this grouping, I will look at Aron White, Derek Rich, Bryan Ros, and Bruce Figgins.
Aron White (Jr), 6'4", 225 lbs
White was one of the more productive tight ends last season, hauling in three catches for two scores and 88-yards—the majority of which came in the LSU game where he caught a 48-yard pass.
He is thought to be the main guy vying for the starting job now that both Tripp Chandler (graduation) and Bruce Figgins (suspension) are no longer standing in his way.
His hands are exceptional, and he is at his best when he's in the red zone.
He has sub-par speed—clocking in at a very pedestrian 4.93, and won't fool anyone where elusiveness is concerned, but he's efficient and will move the chains for you as needed.
His body control makes him a nice option in short-yardage situations as well because he can be a tough guy to bring down.
He may be the most well-rounded tight end on the roster right now and if he is allowed to get on the field more next season, he could be a tremendous talent with some nice upside.
If there are any weaknesses to speak of with White, it may be that he is a little light for a tight end.
At 6'4", he has the height, but at 225 pounds, he lacks the bulk that you want for a guy who will likely be facing off against a 285-300 pound SEC lineman—in truth, he is likely more suited to play wide receiver than tight end.
His lack of bulk could make him vulnerable to getting beat at the point of attack and that could spell trouble for the quarterback in a pass-rush situation, which in turn means that White could easily be a liability.
This will definitely work against him and he will need to do some serious work to add some heft to his frame.
If he doesn't, he may have to consider a permanent switch to the wide receiver position.
Derek Rich (RSo), 6'4", 256 lbs
Rich is a transfer from UConn that joined the Georgia team in 2008. Our first real glimpse of him was during the G-Day game where he caught a couple passes for 44-yards.
The loss of Bruce Figgins for the first six-games of the year places Rich in the enviable position of being second on the depth chart behind Aron White.
I don't know that he will remain there, particularly with the signing of Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, but you have to imagine that his experience will give him a shot at maintaining his position—unless Bryce Ros can make the necessary strides in adjusting to SEC play.
He's got nice hands and is a reliable target on most downs. He won't wow you with his speed or his overall game, but he's solid at his position and knows his assignments.
He runs precise routes and can make adjustments when necessary. He's also an able blocker with a great work ethic that makes him a tough competitor on the field.
He isn't likely to get in the game much due to the abundance of talent that is coming in this season, but he is not an altogether bad option either—I expect him to see some chances this year, especially with Figgins out for more than half the year.
Bryce Ros (So), 6'4", 234 lbs
Ros is another guy who has a shot at making his presence felt on the depth chart. He has a Georgia pedigree, his father Frank was a linebacker on the 1980 National Championship team, and Bryce has always wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog.
However, now that he is entering his second season in the red and black, he will have to kick it up a notch if he expects to remain in the running for a top slot on the depth chart.
He and Aron White are the only scholarship players on the squad at the moment, but he will face stiff competition once Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch arrive.
As of now, Ros is looking to get his reps in so that he can start getting a grasp on the game. He hasn't developed as quickly as he would have liked and is finding the speed of the SEC to be a challenge for him, particularly as it relates to picking up on blocking schemes and being in the proper place at the proper time.
Ros has no game experience as of now, but did play in the G-Day game in the spring where he caught one pass for five yards.
His biggest strength may be his ability as a blocker. His experience on defense has made him a nasty opponent for any defender to face on the field. He has the strength and the leg drive to knock a guy flat on his rear while still maintaining his position to pick up any guys who may follow in his wake.
He's got good hands and an explosive first step off the snap, which makes him sneaky as a third option—he can get behind coverage and make himself a very reliable target for his quarterback if coverage breaks down.
Further, his strength makes him hard to tackle—he uses his powerful leg drive to keep the pile moving even after the play should be over.
He has a valuable skill set which, if used properly, makes him an effective player to have on the field.
His weakness, as of now, seems to be in his overall grasp of the game—he has to make the adjustment to the next level.
This is something he is definitely working on and hopes to bring it all together by the first snap of spring.
Bruce Figgins (Jr), 6'4", 260 lbs
Prior to his six-game suspension, many felt that Figgins was a lock for the starting tight end slot this season.
He has played in a limited capacity due to both injury and depth chart issues (i.e. sitting behind Tripp Chandler and sharing the spotlight with Aron White), but with Chandler gone and White not being the best at picking up blocking schemes, Figgins figured to be the most reliable option...
Figgins is the best blocker on the team with game experience.
I don't believe that he will factor into the Dawgs' plans at all this year now as it will be late in the season when he makes his return.
By that time, I fully expect that another player will have emerged and the depth chart will again be Figgins' enemy.
It's such a waste to see a guy blow his chances due to immaturity. I hope that this latest suspension proves to be a learning experience for Big Fig.
Next week: Orson Charles, Arthur Lynch, and Dustin Banks