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Thursday, April 18, 2013
UGA TE to watch: Jay Rome

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- At the midway point of last season, many Georgia fans were asking why the Bulldogs’ tight ends -- and Jay Rome in particular -- weren’t playing a bigger role in the offense.

Rome caught only two passes in the first eight games last fall as a redshirt freshman, playing almost exclusively in a blocking role. That was not what anyone expected from the player whom ESPN rated as the nation’s top tight end prospect when he signed with the Bulldogs in 2011.

But as the season progressed, both Rome and fellow tight end Arthur Lynch began to play larger roles in the offense -- and Rome could be in position to build off of that momentum in his second season as an active player. He caught the first two touchdowns of his career against Georgia Tech and Alabama and hauled in at least one pass in each of the Bulldogs' last five games of the regular season.

Now that he has established himself in Georgia’s offense, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rome use his combination of size and athleticism to easily surpass his 152 receiving yards from his freshman season.

Jay Rome, Malcolm Mitchell
Jay Rome (left) is hoping to celebrate more big plays in his redshirt sophomore season.
2012 review: Rome made his first career catch in the second game of the season against Missouri and one more three games later against Tennessee. Those were his only two touches until November, when he notched a career-high three receptions against Ole Miss. Down the stretch, however, Rome saw a greater share of passes come his way -- none bigger than the second-quarter touchdown pass against Alabama that opened the scoring in the SEC championship game shootout.

2013 preview: After walking on with Georgia’s basketball team as a freshman, Rome focused exclusively on football this year and he believes that will better prepare him to fulfill his potential. He’s still going to share the position with fifth-year senior Lynch -- and possibly more with sophomore Ty Flournoy-Smith -- but Rome should play a bigger role than he played as a freshman.

Spring prospectus: By participating in the Bulldogs' offseason conditioning program, Rome got himself in better football shape leading up to spring practice. He moved smoothly in practice, particularly for someone who is 6-foot-6 and more than 250 pounds. Rome finished the spring with a strained hip flexor that kept him out of the last two practices, but that shouldn’t be an issue during summer workouts.

Career potential: Now that he’s focusing on football alone, the arrow would appear to be up on Rome’s gridiron career. He has all the tools to continue Georgia’s run of success with players at his position during the Mark Richt era, joining the likes of Orson Charles, Leonard Pope, Ben Watson and Randy McMichael, among others. Rome hasn’t accomplished much yet, but if he stays healthy, it seems to be only a matter of time before he becomes a reliable weapon for the Bulldogs.