But the tight ends make up a talented group – Nauta was the team’s third-leading receiver last year – so why do they comprise a collective 14 percent of the team’s catches?
Kirby Smart has a simple explanation. Defenses are playing man-to-man against Georgia, because they’re worried about UGA’s run game, and it’s easier for tight ends to get open against a zone.
“Trust me, I know about coaching defense and I know how people are playing us. So it’s easy to see why tight ends aren’t catching as many passes for us: Because they’re not open,” Smart said. “We throw to the open guy.”
Smart sounded bemused at all the fuss about the subject.
“I’m so engulfed in what we’re doing that I don’t know what people are so enamored with about the tight ends catching the ball. If the tight ends get open, they’ll get thrown the ball,” Smart said. “When people play you to stop the run, they play man a lot. When they play man, they cover the tight ends. I dare you to show me where there’s a tight end that’s open in man-to-man. …
“We’ve got plays designed to go to the tight ends, but they’ve been covered. It’s not a matter of we don’t want to throw to our tight ends. We have no mutiny against them. We just have to keep working at it and try to get some spots where they’ll be open. If some teams will play zone we could throw the ball to the tight end.”
Kirby’s bemused. I wonder if his tight ends are, too.