TE Rome takes pride in role in Bulldogs’ ground game

Jay Rome is a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Through the first five games of 2012, the redshirt freshman tight end has caught only two passes for 36 yards.

Though his overall receiving numbers leave him at ninth on the team, Rome said he still believes he’s had a good season so far. His reason: the dominance of the ground game.

“I feel like I’ve had a big impact in the running game,” he said. “I feel like I’ve had just as a big an impact as I wanted to have even if I haven’t caught that many passes. It just came at a different aspect of the game which is also equally, if not more, important.”

Georgia leads the conference in rushing with a commanding 248.8 yards per contest, and being effective in that part of the game is a high priority for Rome.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” he said. “Football is a game of inches, and if you can’t run the football, then you really can’t play football. I mean, the passing game … that’s a big part. But if you can run the ball, that just opens up the passing lanes even more because (the defense) can’t just be sitting on the receivers. They have to be worried about how many men they need to have in the box if they know that we can run the ball.”

The guys in the trenches will square off today against the seventh-ranked rush defense in the nation in South Carolina.

The Gamecocks defensive line boasts intimidating pass rushers like Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Devin Taylor — who as a team — have 23 sacks so far.

Despite the glossy numbers for the Gamecocks’ front four, Rome stresses that their preparation in practice hasn’t changed.

“We’re not going to do anything different just for them,” he said. “We’re going to do the same thing we’ve been doing. (We’re going to continue) working hard to patch up things we did wrong or not as good the past week, and just attacking every week the same.”

Before kickoff on Saturday, Rome may receive a text message containing well wishes from men’s basketball coach Mark Fox. Rome played in seven games for the basketball team last season and says he and Fox are constantly communicating.

“I talk to Coach Fox every day, really,” Rome said. “When I get back to my phone after the game, if I made a good block or a good play, coach Fox is one of the first names I see in my inbox.”

Many successful tight ends in the NFL played both basketball and football while they were in college. Rome’s father, Stan Rome, did the same when he was at Clemson, and Jay said basketball was his first love when he was growing up.

“I’ve always been a big basketball guy,” he said. “When I was younger I was always basketball first, but now it’s kind of changed a little bit.”

He expects to play again this season, and even though Rome only scored three total points in the 17 minutes he played, it was his time off the court that he cherished the most.

“For me to be able to come in and learn the plays and gain coach’s confidence to put me in some games … I felt like he and the team accepted me and I made some great relationships with the coaches and the players,” he said. “I feel just as much a part of that team as I do the football team.”

Before Rome can even think about basketball, his main priority will continue to be his performance on the gridiron.

As long as he’s dressing out on Saturdays, coach Mark Richt expects to see no let up from his tight ends.

“I think that the tight end position is going to continue to catch balls,” Richt said. “We’ll call routes and if the progression leads us to the tight end, we’ll throw it to ‘em. We have faith in those guys.”