Georgia Football: Who Will Replace Arthur Lynch in Starting Lineup in 2014?

Andrew Hall@DudeYouCrazyCorrespondent IIIFebruary 17, 2014

Georgia will miss departing tight end Arthur Lynch.
Georgia will miss departing tight end Arthur Lynch.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

For a player who ended his career as a first-team All-SEC selection, Arthur Lynch got off to a bit of a slow start as a Georgia Bulldog.

As the nation's third-best tight end prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings in 2009, Lynch was bested early by fellow freshman Orson Charles and veteran Aron White.  Lynch played sparingly in 2009, registering just two catches before redshirting in 2010.  In his third season in Athens, he failed to catch a pass.

The early stages of Lynch's career were so frustrating that at one point he considered transferring.  Head coach Mark Richt had to twist his arm to get him to stay.  Richt recounted the conversation to Seth Emerson of the Ledger-Enquirer last fall, saying, "I had to convince him everything's gonna be OK and it's gonna be worth it in the end.  And now I know he's thankful he stuck it out and didn't go when he was thinking of going."

Things did turn around for Lynch.  In 2012, he registered 13 starts while placing fourth on the team with 431 receiving yards.  He surpassed those totals with a 30-catch, 459-yard performance while hauling in five touchdown passes as a senior.

Arthur Lynch Career Stats
YearReceptionsReceiving YardsYards Per CatchTouchdowns
20092178.80
2010--------
20110000
20122443117.963
20133045915.305
Sports-Reference.com

Now, Matt Miller, Bleacher Report's NFL Draft Lead Writer, believes Lynch is the sixth-best tight end prospect in this year's draft, and CBS Sports projects Lynch to be drafted in the fourth round.  

With Lynch's departure, it's time for Jay Rome—another tight end who was slower out of the blocks than some expected—to take over as the full-time starter for the Georgia Bulldogs.

 

Expectations Unmet?

Jay Rome fights his way in for a score against Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game.
Jay Rome fights his way in for a score against Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game.USA TODAY Sports

Jay Rome arrived in Athens, Ga. as a 6'6", 250-pound 4-star tight end, according to 247Sports.  As a member of Georgia's famed "Dream Team" recruiting class, Rome was expected to contribute immediately as a backup to Orson Charles and Aron White.  And with more size and athleticism—Rome also played on Georgia's basketball team as a freshman—than any tight end on the roster, some expected him to contend for a starting position by season's end.

Instead, Rome redshirted as a freshman.  In 2012, Rome played sparingly early but came on toward the end of the season.  In his first career start, a 42-10 victory over Georgia Tech, he recorded his first touchdown catch on a 24-yard reception.  The next week, he registered a 19-yard touchdown grab against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

He finished his redshirt freshman campaign with 11 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns.  

Last year, however, Rome failed to find the end zone and hauled in fewer catches (nine) while accounting for fewer receiving yards (99).

Jay Rome Career Stats
YearReceptionsReceiving YardsYards Per CatchTouchdowns
2011--------
20121115213.822
2013999110
Sports-Reference.com

Needless to say, Rome's first three years in Athens have fallen short—at least from a statistical standpoint—of fans' expectations.

 

Is the Job Rome's to Lose?

Admittedly, some of Rome's perceived shortcomings are a byproduct of Arthur Lynch's late rise to prominence, but is Rome still the leading candidate to start at tight end in 2014?

Georgia will have five other tight ends on its roster in 2014, but Jay Rome has one decided advantage over his competition: experience.

Jared Chapple (redshirt sophomore), Jack Loonam (redshirt junior) and Jordan Davis (redshirt freshman) all return from last year, but not one of them has seen a single snap at the tight end position.  Two talented freshman, Jeb Blazevich and Hunter Atkinson, signed with the Dawgs in February, but neither has experienced football at the collegiate level.

Furthermore, the case can be made that Rome is also the most talented tight end on Georgia's roster, according to recruiting rankings.

Georgia's Tight Ends as Recruits
PlayerRecruiting ClassRatingOverall National Ranking
Jay Rome20114-Star55
Jack Loonam2011UnratedUnranked
Jared Chapple2012UnratedUnranked
Jordan Davis20133-Star503
Jeb Blazevich20144-Star132
Hunter Atkinson20143-Star896
247Sports Composite

The job is Rome's to lose in 2014.

 

Expectations for Greatness

Rome's 2013 campaign wasn't merely statistically frustrating.  Like many of Georgia's best offensive weapons, Rome was plagued by injury last season.

Rome injured his foot in the middle of a three-catch performance against Appalachian State in early November.  He had surgery to mend the injury and missed the remainder of the season.

Undoubtedly, the time missed will serve as motivation for Rome as he prepares to insert himself into a long line of successful Bulldog tight ends.  And if recent history is any indicator, Rome is due for a breakout season.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo continues to rely on tight ends within the passing game, and if Rome is the featured target at the position—which all existing evidence suggests will be the case—he too could be on pace for an All-SEC season.

Georgia Tight End Success
YearPlayerReceiving YardsReceiving Touchdowns
2013Arthur Lynch4595
2012Arthur Lynch4313
2011Orson Charles5745
2010Orson Charles4222
Sports-Reference.com

Arthur Lynch will be dearly missed by the Georgia Bulldogs, but his exit opens the door for Jay Rome, who may prove to be an even greater asset to the Dawgs for the next two years.