- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- The numbers speak for Mike Bobo these days, but Georgia coach Mark Richt sang his praises following Saturday’s win against Tennessee, anyway.
After watching his Bulldogs score 51 points -- extending Georgia’s program-record string of five straight games with 40-plus points and total 560 yards against the Volunteers, Richt heaped compliments on his offensive coordinator.
“Mike has just blossomed into one heck of a coach,” Richt said of Bobo, who has been the target of plenty of fan criticism in recent seasons. “I know anybody who calls plays catches grief. I was a play-caller and I caught my share of grief, and so anybody calling plays catches grief. But I’ve always known Mike as just a heck of a ball coach. He understands the game.
“Even myself as a coordinator, I understood the pass game pretty darn good, and I understood the run game to a certain degree, but not to the degree that Mike understands it. He really understands how to run that ball and how to call the game, and the run game, too.”
Richt has always publicly supported of his offensive coordinator, even when some fans didn’t share his confidence in Bobo. But in 2012, thus far at least, that confidence is paying off with offensive production that no Georgia team has ever matched.
Through five games, Georgia ranks eighth nationally in scoring offense (48.2 points per game), 11th in total offense (536 yards per game), 11th in rushing offense (250.4 ypg) and 29th in passing offense (285.6 ypg). Only Florida State’s average of 8.1 yards per play is better than Georgia’s 7.98. Not even the Oregons and West Virginias and Oklahoma States, who are better known for playing wide-open offensive football, can match the Bulldogs.
Richt believes those statistics serve as confirmation that what he sees in the meeting room is translating first to Georgia’s practice field and then to games on Saturdays.
“I sit in there in just about every one of the offensive staff meetings and I’m more observing than I’m in there directing. I’m not directing. Mike’s directing it,” Richt said. “And I listen to them game plan, I listen to their thoughts, I’ll give them a couple of suggestions here and there, but for the most part I just nod my head saying, ‘These guys really know what they’re doing. I don’t need to get in the way of them.’ They’re doing a super job.”
Tight ends' role: Last Saturday’s 51-44 win against Tennessee was a banner outing for Georgia’s offense in general and for the tight ends in particular.
Arthur Lynch set a new career high for receiving yards for the second time in three games -- he led the team with 75 yards on three grabs -- and it also marked the first time that both Lynch and redshirt freshman Jay Rome (who made a leaping 21-yard grab on a first-quarter touchdown drive) made receptions in the same game.
They expect more matching contributions in the future, although that won’t necessarily always come in the passing game.
“When my number’s called for a pass play, I have full confidence in my hands,” Rome said. “I have full confidence in Artie’s hands. I know we’re going to make plays. And when they call us to block, I have confidence that we’re going to get the blocking assignments done, too. So I wouldn’t really say it’s a breakout because I feel like it’s always been there and it’s going to be there.”
That blocking responsibility will be particularly important on Saturday against South Carolina, when the Bulldogs face two All-SEC-caliber defensive ends in Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. Georgia’s tight ends didn’t have a catch against the Gamecocks last season and this year might be more of the same if the coaching staff decides they are more valuable assisting the offensive line against the South Carolina defensive front.
Lynch looks forward to that assignment, however, as it will be the best gauge yet of the blocking progress the new tight ends and offensive linemen have truly made this season.
“It’s definitely going to be a kind of "let’s test our manhood a little bit because they say they’re the best in the country' -- and all film and all stats say they are, because that’s exactly what they are,” Lynch said. “We went against them last year and I thought we did a pretty good job.
“Everyone complained that we didn’t catch any balls last year, but I thought we did a good job of blocking the ends. But they’re a year older, a year more mature, a year stronger so it’s definitely going to be an interesting battle, but I’m excited to kind of see where I am on a personal level.”
Geathers’ ‘fan base:’ Georgia defensive end Abry Jones enjoys playing road games in general, but he is looking forward to visiting South Carolina in particular because of the reception he expects Bulldogs nose guard Kwame Geathers to receive from his home-state fans.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy this one, being a big game, great atmosphere, but I love going to South Carolina with Kwame because I know they hate him," Jones said. "I’m definitely ready to hear what they’re going to say about him.”
Geathers, a 6-foot-6, 355-pound junior from Georgetown, S.C., is one of two scholarship Bulldogs from South Carolina and also has family ties to the school in Columbia. His older brother Clifton played for the Gamecocks and his cousin Carlton plays for South Carolina’s basketball team.
Jones said Gamecocks fans reminded Geathers of those connections in unfriendly terms when the Bulldogs last visited in 2010.
“Then when we end up losing, it just got even worse,” Jones laughed. “I know before the game, we were coming out of the tunnel and Kwame, he’s not a hard guy to miss, so you definitely spot him out and they were pointing him out and you could already tell they were going to give it to him.”
Jones expects to contribute more significantly on Saturday after a sprained ankle suffered against Vanderbilt limited his snap count in the Tennessee game. Jones said he played only 16 to 18 downs against the Vols and contributed only on third-down situations in the second half.
The senior said the ankle continues to heal and seemed that confident he will be ready for Saturday.
“It’s getting better as I go,” Jones said. “The good thing about senior year is you don’t have the same amount of classes and you’ve got a lot of free time to get treatment.”