Georgia Bulldogs: Jordan Davis
In previous weeks, we've broken down several players and position groups to watch this spring. As we lead up to the Bulldogs’ first-team workout, this week we'll make five predictions related to the upcoming practices.
Today’s prediction: Jordan Davis makes a move at tight end
Like the prediction we made about redshirt freshman tailback A.J. Turman on Monday, this is another one that seems like common sense.
Depth is an even bigger issue for Davis and the tight ends. All-SEC senior Arthur Lynch just exhausted his eligibility. Jay Rome is recovering from surgery, and coach Mark Richt said last week that he expects him to either miss all or most of spring. Signees Jeb Blazevich and Hunter Atkinson won’t arrive until summer.
If redshirt freshman Davis doesn’t make good use of what should be a ton of reps this spring, that will come off as an enormous disappointment.
The Bulldogs didn’t need him to play last season since Lynch and blocking tight end Hugh Williams were seniors, and Rome was also in the mix, although injuries cut his season short.
The depth chart looks completely different now, and Davis’ combination of speed, athleticism -- he was a distinguished hurdler in high school -- and a steady work ethic should begin to pay off immediately. If anything, he needs to learn to relax a bit, as tight ends coach John Lilly insisted last season that Davis often put too much pressure on himself.
Now is the time for him to settle into the routine of operating with the regulars on offense. Georgia’s coaches said last week that fullback Quayvon Hicks might take some snaps in an H-back role on offense, but otherwise Davis is the lone scholarship tight end available if Rome misses the entire spring.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Davis certainly looks the part of a pass-catching tight end with the frame to hold more size if necessary. Our prediction is that he develops the confidence this spring to accompany those physical tools, and that he will seize an on-field role for this fall.
Aulden Bynum, Fr., OL
2013 ESPN rating: Three stars, No. 47 offensive tackle
This season: Enrolled in January and worked at multiple positions along the offensive line.
Veteran's perspective: “He's not as strong as he wants to be right now, probably has to put on a little more weight. I think that he's also very good naturally just with leverage and feet space and stuff like that.” -- senior offensive guard Chris Burnette
Josh Cardiello, Fr., OL
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 21 offensive guard
This season: Enrolled in January and practiced mostly at left guard and center .
Veteran's perspective: “Cardiello is a really explosive guy, which I like. I think that's really important as an offensive lineman is to be explosive. He has good leverage, knows how to bend his knees and is also deceptively athletic and I think that's going to be good for him in the future.” -- Burnette
Jordan Davis, Fr., TE
2013 ESPN rating: Three stars, No. 15 tight end-Y
This season: Wasn't needed with seniors Arthur Lynch and Hugh Williams and sophomore Jay Rome available.
Veteran's perspective: “I think a big thing for him will just be learning the playbook, understanding the playbook, understanding how we want it done here. He's got a body like Jermaine Gresham. He's 6-foot-5-plus. He's about 240-something now, but he could put on 20 pounds easy. And he can run. I think that's one thing that'll be a very big asset of his is he'll be able to run and create space from linebackers and even probably safeties.” -- Lynch
Uriah LeMay, Fr., WR
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 48 wide receiver
This season: Stuck behind a glut of established veteran receivers.
Veteran's perspective: “Redshirt's a really important year. I know it was for me. I wasn't ready to play at all. It was important going into my redshirt freshman year that I had a lot of experience under my belt and it was a lot easier. I've seen improvement throughout his redshirt year and hopefully this spring is going to be big for him to really learn the offense and hopefully contribute next year.” -- junior receiver Michael Bennett
Brice Ramsey, Fr., QB
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 115 overall, No. 7 pocket passer
This season: Enrolled in January knowing that a redshirt was extremely likely with Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason sitting atop the depth chart.
Veteran's perspective: “A cannon. That's the first thing you see when you look at Brice: those long arms and that odd body type. He just brings his arm back and flicks his wrist and the ball just shoots off so fast that you want to get out of the way. But that's the first thing you notice with him. He's a young, fun-loving guy with a lot of God-given ability, and once he puts that together with his knowledge of the playbook, he'll be something dangerous.” -- junior receiver Chris Conley
Tramel Terry, Fr., WR?
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 89 overall, No. 9 athlete
This season: Perhaps the biggest question of bowl practice is how to qualify Terry these days. He practiced at receiver all season while returning from an ACL tear, but has been practicing at safety this week.
Veteran's perspective: “He's a guy who has to still get healthy, get strong and prepare to come in and execute at a high level and play fast. And I think he's going to be ready to do that. When you take an injury like that, it can do some things to your confidence and I think he's gaining it back and he's building it. With the more plays that he makes, the more like the old Tramel Terry he'll be.” -- Conley
A.J. Turman, Fr., RB
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 260 overall, No. 22 running back
This season: When Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were injured at midseason, Turman playing seemed like a possibility. But the coaches preserved his redshirt and he'll join a deep backfield in 2014.
Veteran's perspective: “Turman's the man. Just because even if he's on scout team, he's still like wanting to learn what to do and he's always full speed. He's never like, 'Ah, I'm on scout team. I'm not playing this year.' So he's always getting better from what I see. He always asks me questions like, 'What do I do on this? What do I do on that?' and he actually is really like a beast. Y'all will definitely see.” -- Gurley
With that in mind, let's look at five Georgia players (or groups) who need to have strong springs and summers -- once the Bulldogs move past their upcoming bowl matchup, of course -- to become useful players next season.
Brandon Kublanow: With three offensive line positions open after the season ends, we could go several directions here. But let's stick to guard, where starters Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee will both be gone after this season. Kublanow was impressive enough after arriving on campus this summer that he won some playing time as a true freshman. It would not be at all surprising to see him grab a starting job next season if he has a strong spring and summer. He's a grinder, and he's going to become a solid offensive lineman at the college level.
The ILBs: Most likely, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson will be back for their senior seasons in 2014. But it's not a particularly good thing that they essentially played every meaningful down this fall. The Bulldogs need the freshmen who played sparingly -- Reggie Carter, Tim Kimbrough, Johnny O'Neal and Ryne Rankin -- to make a bigger impact next season. Carter is the most obvious choice for more playing time, but Georgia needs to develop more of the talent on the roster in order to be prepared for Wilson and Herrera's departure after next season. To this point, he's the only non-starter at ILB who has played an important down.
A.J. Turman: After redshirting as a freshman, Turman is in an awkward position as 2014 approaches. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are established stars. Brendan Douglas and J.J. Green were productive this fall while playing as true freshmen. Now verbal commits Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are on board to join the team before next season. Turman has some running skills, but he'd better do something to make himself stand out -- soon … like this winter and spring -- or he'll place himself in jeopardy of getting lost in the shuffle.
Jordan Davis: Another 2013 redshirt, Davis has the opportunity to garner major playing time next fall. Arthur Lynch and Hugh Williams will be gone and only Jay Rome will remain among the Bulldogs' 2013 regulars at tight end. Davis should be able to carve out a role -- and he could do himself a favor if he does so before highly-touted verbal commit Jeb Blazevich can establish himself. Davis is a diligent worker and should eventually become a serviceable traditional tight end, whereas Blazevich looks more like a player whose greatest strength will be his receiving skills. The Bulldogs need both skill sets to be present among players at the position.
Entering Saturday's visit to No. 7 Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC), No. 25 Georgia (6-3, 4-2) is the healthiest it has been on offense since a disastrous visit to Tennessee when tailback Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley went down with season-ending knee injuries and wideout Michael Bennett suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of the lineup temporarily.
“We're getting guys back, which is good, but they've also missed a lot of practice time, which on the flip side is a negative,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “So we're having to work a little harder than we may have in the past in November. But I think it's good. I think it's a confidence boost to the offense.”
Conley leads the team with 30 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns, while Lynch's 15 catches for 243 yards rank fifth. But while their receiving production is obviously important, their simple presences in the lineup -- alongside players with whom they've shared so many practice and game reps -- are just as valuable.
“It definitely helps the chemistry because we went through camp all together and you kind of get that chemistry with those guys together,” said Bennett, who posted a team-high five catches in each of the two games since he returned to the lineup. “You can lose it when you've got new guys coming in. But those other guys have done a heck of a job coming in and filling in for us. But when you have those veterans come back like Artie and Conley, it definitely brings a new confidence.”
Lynch's return is well-timed, as Rome was the only other scholarship tight end who has played this season. Freshman Jordan Davis is on track to redshirt and walk-on Hugh Williams has played as a blocker, but has yet to catch a pass.
Meanwhile, Conley brings some punch back to a receiving corps that struggled during Georgia's midseason lull, when at one point they were without tailbacks Todd Gurley and Marshall and wideouts Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and Bennett. It's no coincidence that the Bulldogs lost to both Missouri and Vanderbilt during that period, or that they posted a paltry 221 yards of total offense -- including just 114 passing -- in the Vandy loss.
Conley seemed questionable at best for the Auburn game early in the week, but he was able to practice in non-contact drills on Wednesday which encouraged Bulldogs coach Mark Richt.
“I was telling the quarterback, 'He's going half-speed' or whatever, and Conley kind of ran a little faster than half-speed and snatched the ball,” Richt said. “And Bobo was looking around like, 'We ought to let him practice a little bit.' … He didn't practice the whole time, but he got some work in and he looked good. I don't think he had any setbacks.”
Richt insisted that Conley's role might still be limited should he play on Saturday, but he comes back to a group of receivers that had to look elsewhere for production during his two-game absence -- and might have found another spark in Jonathon Rumph.
The junior college transfer was sidelined by a hamstring injury throughout the first half of the season and played sparingly for the first time two weeks ago against Florida. He caught his first passes -- four of them, in fact, for 98 yards -- in the fourth quarter against Appalachian State, causing Bobo to remark that he's “actually getting excited about him” earlier this week.
“I had a feeling that I knew what I was going to do, but I really didn't want to mess up,” Rumph said of his performance last week. “I focused a lot on the game plan, I knew everything I had to do and everybody on the sideline kept me lifted. The starters told me, 'All right, when you're opportunity comes, take advantage.' That's all it was, just making plays for my team.”
For the first time in more than a month, Georgia's offense has a wide array of players who seem ready to do that. The main one to watch is likely Gurley, who is still not back to 100 percent and has not been able to handle a full workload in the two games since returning from an ankle injury. But quarterback Aaron Murray clearly has more established weapons at his disposal than he has had in weeks, and that can only be a positive sign for the Bulldogs.
“The more guys you get out there that Murray feels comfortable with, I think, the better,” Bobo said.
But before Georgia's coaching staff can help its reserves gain some on-field seasoning, the starters must first take control against a resilient Mean Green (2-1) club that outscored Ball State 31-7 after the first quarter on Saturday to win, 34-27.
“Just this past weekend, you saw Michigan playing Akron, and I don't know what their mindset was going into the game, but I know what it was, I'm sure, when the game was over,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said, referring to Saturday's game in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines needed a last-minute goal-line stand to defeat Akron, 28-24. “I think everybody's just got to understand that we must focus very, very hard on improving, but we need to focus very hard on our game plan.”
Nonetheless, as long as Georgia's starters take care of business against the Mean Green, there should be more than enough playing time to go around for backups and those returning from injury to get some work in a game.
Repeat -- as long as they take care of business.
“We'll play the game as it happens,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said of the prospect of playing Mason, the backup quarterback and potential 2014 starter. “Coach has never been one and I've never been one to say, 'Hey, you're playing this series, that series.' We're going to go out there with all our bullets, so to speak, and play the game and take it from there.”
Against North Texas -- a team that ranks 94th nationally in total defense, allowing 435.7 yards per game -- the opportunity should arise to filter in some of the players who rarely saw the field in the first two games against Clemson and South Carolina.
That might include freshman tight end Jordan Davis or offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow, neither of whom has played to this point. Or more of fellow freshmen like Carter, Tim Kimbrough, Ryne Rankin, Quincy Mauger and Shaq Wiggins, who have contributed mostly on special teams.
“I would think anybody that's going to play has been on special teams and you've kind of seen them in there doing something,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Guys that maybe haven't done anything, I think right now the plan would be not to play those guys. Now obviously injuries or something could change that, but if I was looking to give you a barometer on the guys to expect moving forward, it would be guys that are playing on special teams right now.”
Grantham's prediction doesn't include someone like Rumph, the junior college transfer who missed the first two games and a chunk of preseason practice with a hamstring injury. Richt said last week that the wide receiver was healthy again and should be available against North Texas if he sufficiently knocks off the rust this week in practice.
“I don't know if he'll get in as a rotation from the very beginning or it will be contingent on how the game goes,” Richt said. “I'm not sure exactly where he's at, but he'll be available to play. He was getting a lot of work on special teams. Coaches are trying to incorporate him back into that. If he wasn't injured, I think he'd have been playing by now, scrimmage snaps and special teams snaps.”
Preseason injuries also affected defensive lineman Chris Mayes and defensive backs Shaquille Fluker and Kennar Johnson – all junior college transfers, as well – so some combination of that trio could also figure into the coaches' plans at some point.
Otherwise, it could be the freshmen and reserves who take over in the second half so long as Georgia's starters build a big early lead. And that could be valuable at positions like receiver, tailback and inside linebacker where the Bulldogs could stand to develop some of the younger players who aren't at the top of the depth chart.
“Like I said at the beginning of the year, it was a concern of mine, the depth at tailback,” Bobo said, although such a comment could apply at several positions. “It was good to get Brendan Douglas in [against South Carolina] and J.J. Green got a carry. He got a carry, got in last week.
“So we've got to continue to develop that depth if injuries do happen. It's a rough and tough league. We played two very good opponents in the first two weeks and guys played a lot of snaps and hopefully we'll get healed up and be ready to go.”
This time a year ago, Lilly was coaching two talented -- and yet vastly inexperienced -- tight ends in Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome, plus true freshman Ty Smith, after Orson Charles jumped to the NFL and Aron White graduated. Today the Bulldogs seem to be on solid footing at the position after Lynch and Rome emerged as productive receivers and reliable blockers.
“It’s a fun room to be in right now,” said Lilly, Georgia’s tight ends coach. “They’ve had a little experience, they’ve had a little taste of it and now it’s, ‘Let’s get better. Let’s see how good we can be,’ rather than, ‘Let’s just figure out where to line up and what to do and how to do it.’ So that is exciting. Every guy that’s in that room kind of has the same attitude.”
Thanks in part to injuries that robbed the Bulldogs’ receiving corps of its depth, Lynch and Rome accepted larger roles in Georgia’s passing game in the second half of last season. Lynch made 18 of his 24 catches for 283 of his 431 yards after the midway point of the regular season -- a stretch in which Rome also made nine of his 11 catches and hauled in both of his touchdowns.
“You don’t really worry about that last play. If you made a mistake, you made a mistake,” Lynch said. “You’re numb to certain scenarios, but you also realize there’s more expectations. You’re not working to get around using the tight ends. I think the coaches are very much into involving the tight end.”
Although inexperience was the group’s biggest concern last season, depth was also a factor with just the three scholarship players on the Bulldogs’ roster. Depth remains an issue today after off-the-field issues led to Smith’s departure from the program, with freshman Jordan Davis replacing him as the third scholarship tight end alongside walk-on veterans Hugh Williams and Greg Mulkey.
Davis isn’t especially similar to Smith -- who appeared in eight games last fall -- but he is in a similar position as a likely freshman contributor simply because of the Bulldogs’ positional depth.
“Jordan knows the position he’s in,” Lilly said. “I think he’s got a lot of tools to work with. He’s a guy that is very, very conscientious, almost to the point of being overly serious. He needs to relax sometimes. But I do think he’s a guy that’s trying to be on an accelerated program to learn what to do and how to do it.”
At 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds -- up 20 since competing in the Georgia state track meet as a hurdler during the spring -- Davis already looks the part. He benefited recently from extra practice opportunities while an ankle sprain sidelined Rome, but admitted that Lilly does occasionally scold him for pressing during those practice reps.
“He gets on me sometimes about that because I really want to be able to contribute this year,” Davis said. “Sometimes he’ll correct me on a mistake that I make -- and it’ll be just a regular correction, not anything loud or anything. But I take everything pretty serious.”
As long as Lynch and Rome remain healthy, however, Davis’ time to become a heavy contributor will be next season at the earliest. He knows this season will be useful from a learning perspective -- and he has two solid leaders to follow.
Lynch, a preseason All-SEC pick, is typically listed among the top senior tight end prospects for next year’s NFL draft after a more-than-serviceable first season as a starter. He’s trying to ignore the preseason acclaim for now, however, and his reasoning is sure to please Georgia fans who believe the many NFL prospects on last year’s team grew distracted by their pro possibilities.
“It’s cool for that recognition and for those lists to be out there in the eyes and minds of scouts. It’s good for immediate exposure. But if I don’t match what I did last year and try to expand upon it, then it doesn’t really mean much,” Lynch said.
“I don’t really put too much stock in it. Maybe I would’ve if we won the national championship last year and I wouldn’t have been so intense to win every game. But I think that’s my most important thing.”
Perhaps what caught him a little off guard was how quickly others threw their hat in the ring.
“It will probably be a junior college destination,” Richt said. “He’s talking with [Georgia Military College].”
Richt did not rule out Flournoy-Smith eventually return to Georgia.
“Possibly. That could happen,” he said.
Flournoy-Smith appeared in eight games last fall as a true freshman and seemed to be in the mix for an increased role this season. He was arrested in February for reporting his university-issued schoolbooks as stolen when he had actually sold them back to an Athens-area bookstore, but Richt said at the time that his punishment would be handled internally.
Richt said that he and Flournoy-Smith met this week and that the tight end had reached a decision by the end of their meeting.
“He came to my office and when we were done talking, he thought it was in his best interest to transfer out. That’s kind of where I’m going to leave it right now,” Richt said.
Flournoy-Smith’s departure leaves Georgia with three scholarship tight ends for the 2013 season. Senior Arthur Lynch and sophomore Jay Rome return after splitting the vast majority of the snaps at the position last fall, while signee Jordan Davis will enter the mix this summer.
The Bulldogs seemed set to sign just one tight end for the 2014 class and already have a commitment from ESPN 150 honoree Jeb Blazevich. However, Flournoy-Smith’s departure might alter that plan.
Richt said he is simply not sure whether that will change the coaching staff’s recruiting plan for the position yet.
“You’re going to have a target number at each position,” Richt said. “If you don’t hit a target at a certain position, then you might take that one and give it to this position. So that happens along the way. But we had our target and we basically hit it and now whether that’s changing, I’m just not sure yet.”
Richt said Flournoy-Smith is the only Bulldog that he knows of who is pursuing a transfer.
Bulldogs’ signees compete in last prep events
Tight end Jordan Davis competed in the 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter intermediate hurdles. He finished second in the 110-meter race, beating out several much smaller and quicker competitors.
“These little guys are faster than me,” Davis said. “I can’t catch them in a sprint. But I gain a foot on them on each hurdle.”
Davis will report in June with the Bulldogs' other signees, including Rico Johnson, who was at the meet trying to defend his 100-meter title.
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Returning players/stats: Arthur Lynch, Sr. (12 starts, 24 catches, 431 yards, 3 TDs); Jay Rome, So. (one start, 11-151, 2 TDs); Ty Flournoy-Smith, So. (no catches)
Key storyline: As with Wednesday’s receiver to watch, Chris Conley, Georgia tight ends Lynch and Rome started to play a much larger role in the passing game in the second half of last season once injuries created opportunities for more balls to come their way. Now established in the passing game, Lynch and Rome could build on last season’s 582 combined receiving yards by getting off to a quicker start as receivers this fall.
Watch live coverage on ESPNU | Talk signing day in "The Pound"
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Vitals: Tight end Jordan Davis, Thomson, Ga./Thomson | 6-foot-4, 225 pounds
Committed: July 29, 2012
ESPN.com grade: 77. Three-star prospect.
ESPN.com rankings: No. 15 tight end, No. 355 in Midwest region, No. 86 in Georgia
Picked Georgia over: Florida, Louisville, South Carolina
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We are going to take a position-by-position look at a number of the 2014 prospects whose profile pages you may want to add to your favorites. Here is a look at the tight ends Georgia has offered or has on its radar.
Needs: 2, Committed: none
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Later that night, another coach would also prove lucky as defensive line coach Rodney Garner was on hand to congratulate Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga./Dooly County) after the top-ranked defensive tackle won the chance to play for the Georgia Class A championship.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and running backs coach Bryan McClendon were on hand to see the Bulldogs’ top tailback target, Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), win his semifinal game as well. Alabama’s Kirby Smart was also there, and the battle for Kamara is still neck and neck.
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In this week's update:
- Prospects flock to Athens
- Spots filling up
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