Between injuries and newcomers, UGA simply trying to get a full stable of tight ends

From Randy McMichael in 2002 to Arthur Lynch last weekend, six tight ends who played for Georgia during the Mark Richt era have been selected in the NFL draft.

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Georgia tight end Jay Rome is expected to return from injury this summer.

Whether there are more pro prospects coming through the pipeline at the position remains to be seen.

For now, the Bulldogs will be happy to just get more healthy bodies at tight end come preseason practice.

Georgia ended the spring with Quayvon Hicks, a fullback last season, as the top tight end followed by walk-on Jared Chapple and, on a temporary basis, offensive lineman Aulden Bynum.

That will change with projected starter Jay Rome returning after offseason foot surgery, redshirt freshman Jordan Davis back from a sprained knee and the additions of incoming freshmen Jeb Blazevich from Charlotte, N.C., and Hunter Atkinson from West Hall in Oakwood.

‚ÄúThey‚Äôre low on the backups and they’re battling some injuries at the spot,‚Äù Atkinson said. ‚ÄúThey are looking at young tight ends to come in and look at playing time because of injuries right now. I‚Äôm excited to get up there during the summer in June and show what I can bring to the table and give them my best look.‚Äù

The 6-foot-6, 254-pound Rome, a redshirt junior, had nine catches for 99 yards in only eight games last season. With Lynch gone, there’s certainly opportunity for Rome to make plays.

“Jay’s got time when he gets back, he’s got to get himself in shape since obviously it’s been a little while since he’s done it, but we certainly have high hopes of what he can do if he’ll focus and get himself ready,” tight ends coach John Lilly said.

Hicks worked at tight end this spring and has the capability to help at either tight end or fullback.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Georgia played in a three-receiver, one-tight-end set more than 70 percent of the time last season. That formation takes the fullback off the field. Bobo would like to move away a little bit from the traditional fullback mold like the Bulldogs have had in the past with Jeremy Thomas, J.T. Wall and Brannan Southerland.

Richt said the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Hicks “did pretty good,” considering he only has 15 practices at the position under his belt.

“It’s definitely not polished there, but he’s proved to be able to put his hand on the ground on the line of scrimmage and pass pro and run block pretty darn good,” Richt said. “Just learning what to do, he did a pretty good job and part of it is what we call the F position is a fullback but it’s also a tight end. The fullback is out and the F is the tight end in a three-receiver set. A lot of times that F will run the same route sometimes from a fullback position, sometimes from a tight end position or a tight end alignment. There’s a little carryover there so that probably helped him some.”

The 6-foot-5 Atkinson was down to 240 pounds after coming down with a stomach virus, but expects to get back up to 250.

He was a late addition to Georgia’s recruiting class the night before signing day, backing off a commitment to Cincinnati when he got a chance to play for the Bulldogs he said “because I’ve always been a fan.”

Atkinson caught 51 passes for 704 yards with 11 touchdowns as a senior.

“I always think you’ve got to be a blocking tight end in order to be a receiving tight end because if you can’t block then you shouldn’t be allowed to receive,” Atkinson said. “I always think blocking comes first and then you get rewarded with a catch.”

Coaches usually love that kind of talk.

Of course, after the numbers were down so much in the spring, they will probably love to have any kind of scholarship tight end at their disposal come preseason practices in August.

Follow Marc online at twitter.com/marcweiszer.