Film Study: Examining Georgia's wealth at the tight end position
In part two of my study on University of Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s multi-tight-end-based offensive scheme, I’ll be focusing on how UGA’s current crop of TE’s/H-backs can make a supreme difference this season. (Click here to read part one).
The 2011 New England Patriots, equipped with one of the most versatile rosters in NFL history, were thought to, perhaps, change offensive football for the modern era.
It all started with, of course, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and his ability to excel in just about any philosophy put forth. His career started out in a rhythm-and-timing-based scheme predicated on meshing a power-run outfit with the quick game. It evolved in an undefeated 2007 season which saw an authentic vertical attack take precedence with more of a finesse rushing attack.
His first OC, Charlie Weis, infused West Coast principles with a tinge of vertical concepts. When the much-maligned Josh McDaniels took over in Weis’ stead, forcing the defense to defend all areas of the field became the focal point.
But it was Bill O’Brien, a hot-shot assistant who is now the head coach of the Houston Texans, who devised a plan to combine a no-huddle approach with personnel that was short on traditional receiving talent.
The results were astounding.
Despite the lack of top-notch receivers, Brady set a career high with 5,295 yards on his way to throwing 39 touchdowns!
While these numbers look fantastic on the surface, when you consider a combined 2,237 yards went to tight ends Rob Gronkowski (1,327) and Aaron Hernandez (910), you can plainly see the ingenuity O’Brien was working with.
The name of the game for O’Brien was “12 personnel:” two receivers, one running back.
By combining a traditional tight end like the 6’6″, 265-pound Gronkowski, who can also be flexed out to a plethora of receiving positions, with the jack-of-all-trades Hernandez (6’1″, 245 lbs), O’Brien was able to vary his personnel grouping without actually substituting.
Imagine that; a no-huddle package from a team built around not subbing.
But that’s the benefit you get when you employ versatility, which is the exact route I expect UGA to take with its slew of tight ends.
A player who isn’t receiving enough attention as one of the more talented players in the Southeastern Conference has to be ‘Dawgs TE Jeb Blazevich. The 6’5″ 248-pound true sophomore from Charlotte, NC, managed to haul in 18 passes for 269 yards for an offense that had truly moved away from the TE conceptually.
Blazevich’s versatility lends itself to him playing the move or in-line position in Schottenheimer’s scheme.
At the “Y,” or in-line position, his physicality has to shine as a blocker — first and foremost — as Georgia is a run-first outfit which goes vast in its run concepts: inside- and outside-zone schemes out of “12” and “22 personnel,” Pin & Pull, iso, power, misdirection, etc.
Blazevich is a willing blocker who wins off sheer strength and technique.
And while he is ever-improving in the area, he proved that he’s on a fast track to becoming a complete tight end in only one season Between The Hedges.
But make no mistake, his ultimate value is in his ability to create mismatches wherever he’s lined up along the formation due to his ridiculous receiving ability.
Case in point: Just look how Blazevich made a one-handed grab on that seam route; you can’t coach that type of athleticism.
Blazevich is a rare breed who has the size of Gronkowski, but he also possesses the athleticism of Hernandez. I expect Blazevich to generate the type of publicity University of Arkansas TE Hunter Henry has as both possess a similar skill set.
This will be a breakout year for the sophomore.
Redshirt sophomore Jordan Davis has gone relatively unnoticed in his time in Athens as he’s only generated three catches for 66 yards. At 6’4″, 235 pounds, he’s the typical flex target for a scheme centered around a multi-TE set.
Davis put on a show in the most recent spring game showing off his explosiveness, and his ability to manufacture yardage. At this point in time he’s strictly a receiver, which is not at all a bad thing for this particular team.
I’ve wondered aloud which receiving target can win in the quick game for the Bulldogs; Davis is that player.
This particular sequence from the spring game showed Davis’ speed in the open-field as he covered a ton of ground in a relatively short time.
The Thomson, GA, native figures to be in the mix for a significant amount of catches this season
The physical, versatile Quayvon Hicks may be my favorite player on the squad due to his “Joe Lunchpail” mentality of doing whatever it takes to make an impact. For all intents and purposes he’s a fullback, however, his role has evolved into a Swiss Army knife-like weapon who can line up as an H-back or in-line TE.
And I’m not so sure his agility and athleticism wouldn’t lend itself to him being flexed off the line of scrimmage as a pass-receiving target. But his impact blocking is what separates him from anyone else that plays his position and makes him a scheme-specific fit for a multiplicative offense.
Here we see Hicks manufacturing yards after the catch from, yet, another Jumbo package. He’s essentially playing an H-back role here, which is something I can definitely see him doing in the NFL. He’s money on trap and arc blocks, too, which only adds to the dilemma of Schottenheimer finding a way for him to be on the field at all times; Hicks is the most under-appreciated player in the conference.
The 6’6″, 250-pound Jay Rome has seemingly been on campus for a little under 10 seasons! As a member of the now infamous “Dream Team” recruiting class of 2011, the former member of Georgia’s basketball squad was expected to live up to the precedence set by former stars at the position like Leonard Pope and Ben Watson.
While Rome’s athleticism is undeniable, his inability to stay healthy has left a lot to be desired.
But there’s no denying he’s a complete matchup nightmare for teams having to counter Georgia’s physical deployment of its personnel, as you can’t expect a linebacker to have an answer for his athleticism. And, of course, you can’t expect some 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back to stop him, either.
Imagine having a player Rome’s size who is able to work from the slot against overmatched LBs who can’t match his change-of-direction ability, which is exactly what happened in the above sequence. What’s not to like about having a position group full of versatile mismatches?
Multiple TE sets are the wave of the future for those looking to operate with tempo yet still be able to oscillate between base and down-and-distance sets.
The Dawgs have quality options at the position to help break in whoever the QB is; it should be a great year Between The Hedges.