ATHENS, Ga. -- Entering college always comes with its share of culture shock for a true freshman, but luckily for Georgia tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, he gets by with a little help from some friends.
The Moultrie, Ga., native was preceded at Georgia last year by a Colquitt County High School teammate, Xzavier Ward, and arrived in Athens this summer alongside another former Packer, walk-on offensive lineman Preston Mobley.
“It’s great to have people up here you know,” Flournoy-Smith said. “That way you’re not a strange face. You’re just, whenever you need help, you can go to X.”
All three of South Georgians have earned their share of praise from coaching staff since preseason practice started earlier this month.
Although Ward still has not fully recovered from a high school knee surgery, coach Mark Richt's staff loves his potential at right tackle. Although he backs up David Andrews, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee at center, Mobley regularly works with the second-team offensive line. And then there is Flournoy-Smith, who figures into Georgia’s plans this fall at tight end along with Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome.
“They got coached and you can see that,” Richt said. “We have Preston Mobley and Xzavier Ward and Ty, they’re all lined up [recently] and we were just talking about how there were a bunch of Colquitt County boys all there, three in a row, and they’re all tough kids. They’re going to be good before it’s over.”
Flournoy-Smith is the member of the trio who will probably contribute the soonest, as Georgia’s depth at his position leaves the coaching staff almost no choice but to play him this fall. He admits adjusting to the speed of the college game is an obstacle, but Flournoy-Smith has also helped his cause for playing time by gaining weight this summer.
He arrived on campus at just 225 pounds, but increased his weight to 235 by the time the Bulldogs opened preseason camp. Because the tight ends often have some blocking responsibilities against large defensive linemen, Flournoy-Smith knew size would matter.
“I definitely come off and pack a punch,” Flournoy-Smith said. “But as far as getting my weight behind it, I’ve definitely got to build in that area. Once I gain a little more weight, I’m pretty sure I’ll adapt to it.”
He has been sidelined with a hamstring strain that kept him in a green non-contact jersey this week, but the injury should not keep him out for any significant amount of time. Once he’s back at full speed, the veterans at his position expect Flournoy-Smith to find ways to contribute.
“He’s a guy that can run real well,” Lynch said. “He can catch the ball. I think the thing with him is he needs to learn the every-day tasks it takes to just be here. I think he’s got a lot of talent and he’s willing to learn.”
Lynch, a junior, and Rome, a redshirt freshman, are entrenched as the top two options at the position, but Georgia typically plays at least three or four tight ends over the course of a season. Smith and walk-on Hugh Williams -- also in green after surgery on a broken hand this month -- are next in line to contribute.
Prior to missing time with the injury, Flournoy-Smith had already caught Richt’s eye with his pass-catching skills and willingness to block.
“He has done well as far as just running and catching the ball,” Richt said. “I can’t say the routes have been perfect, but he’s got a decent feel for how to run these routes considering that he just started and he’s made some nice grabs.”
That could translate to production in the passing game -- possibly this season and certainly as Flournoy-Smith’s career progresses, Lynch said.
“I really do think he’s got a lot of talent and I think he’s got an opportunity this year, next year, whatever it is,” Lynch said. “He’s a young kid, he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”