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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Blazevich joins strong lineage of UGA TEs

By David Ching and Radi Nabulsi

Class of 2014 tight end Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) had his pick of programs that have turned out solid tight ends in recent seasons before committing to Georgia on Tuesday.

With all due respect to the Notre Dames, Stanfords and Clemsons of the college football world, no program has been more successful at attracting quality tight ends over the past decade than Georgia. In Blazevich, the Bulldogs add one of highest-rated tight ends to have committed to the program since ESPN began compiling recruiting rankings in 2006.

The No. 90 overall prospect on the ESPN 150 and the No. 3 tight end-H, Blazevich hopes to continue Georgia’s longstanding tradition under coach Mark Richt of incorporating tight ends into the passing game.

In the four seasons since 2008 -- the lone down season for the position in Richt’s tenure -- Georgia’s tight ends have averaged 41.8 catches, 610 receiving yards and 6.3 touchdown catches per season. Last season, Arthur Lynch finished fourth on the team with 24 catches for 431 yards, while Jay Rome came on toward the end of the season and finished with 11 receptions for 152 yards -- and those totals were actually down a bit from recent years when 2011 John Mackey Award finalist Orson Charles was one of the most active pass-catching tight ends in the country.

The Bulldogs have sent a number of tight ends to the NFL under Richt’s watch, including Randy McMichael, Ben Watson, Leonard Pope and Charles. Current senior Lynch and redshirt sophomore Rome could add to that total once they complete their college careers, and Blazevich certainly possesses the potential to someday join that group, as well.

A gifted pass-catcher at 6-foot-5, Blazevich has the skills and body type to become a receiving weapon but must continue to add mass to his 228-pound listed weight in order to excel as a prototypical tight end in the SEC. ESPN’s talent scouts clearly believe he’ll get there, however. Blazevich’s 83 grade is the highest they’ve given to any eventual Georgia tight end signee other than Rome -- he received an 84 in 2011, when he was the nation’s top-rated tight end prospect -- since 2006.

Blazevich could contribute immediately once he joins the Bulldogs. Lynch will be out of the picture by then, and while Rome will be draft eligible after the 2013 season, he will have to produce significantly more impressive receiving numbers this fall to consider a leap to the NFL. Otherwise, rising sophomore Ty Flournoy-Smith and 2013 signee Jordan Davis will serve as Blazevich’s primary competition for playing time.

The Bulldogs traditionally use at least three tight ends in a season, so the opportunity will exist for Blazevich to carve out a role for himself early in his college career.

Another impact of Blazevich's commitment could be to kick start the momentum Georgia has lacked on the recruiting trail. None of Georgia’s first three commits were on the ESPN 150 list that was released last week. Blazevich gives the Bulldogs a high-profile commit whom other recruits can point to as being a possible teammate. If Georgia lands four-star Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American), the nation’s No. 2 running back, when he announces on Friday, the Bulldogs would in one week have almost doubled the size of the class and filled two positions of need with premiere talents.

Blazevich’s personality will help the Bulldogs long before he steps foot in Athens. He is strongly committed to Georgia and is unlikely to waver. We have seen in the past how useful it is for schools to have a commitment at exclusive events like The Opening and the Under Armour game. Blazevich will be there, recruiting for Georgia and serving as a well-liked extension of the Georgia staff. Safety commit Nick Glass (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) is a vocal recruiter for Georgia, but he can use the help. Fellow commits Krenwick Sanders (Jesup, Ga./Wayne County) and Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton) are not exactly beating down the doors of fellow Georgia targets.