Tight ends usually range just far enough away from the line of scrimmage to convert the next first down.
Georgia tight end Orson Charles is third on the team in yards per catch this season. He has caught 24 passes for 403 yards and two touchdowns this year.
File / Staff
Orson Charles has developed into a long-distance threat for Georgia with one of the highest yards-per-reception average while carrying a 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame.
“What he does is extremely impressive,” Georgia receiver Tavarres King said. “For a big guy like him, to get down the field like he does, that’s something he’s really blessed with. He’s got the size and the athletic ability and the agility and the speed to go with it. That’s something to be proud about. He plays well with it.”
Charles has posted remarkably consistent numbers in his two seasons at Georgia.
This year, he has caught 24 passes for 403 yards and two touchdowns for a 16.8-yard average.
As a freshman last year, he caught 23 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns with a 16.3-yard average. Charles ranks third on the in average yards per catch, trailing regulars Kris Durham (21.1) and King (20.5). Charles’ average is even higher than teammate A.J. Green (15.7).
But catching the ball isn’t his only responsibility. Charles also takes an active role in blocking at the line and often has to help protect the quarterback.
“People don’t always understand all the things we have to do as tight ends,” Charles said. “We have to catch, but we also have to run block and pass block, make reads at the same time and make plays for the offense. It’s very hard, very hard. You’ve got to be a big guy to do it and you’ve got to have smart guys, too, and we’re blessed to have that with all our tight ends.”
“Tight end is one of the toughest positions to play in football, in my opinion,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Everybody wants you to block like a lineman, but they want you to be athletic enough to run routes and penetrate the field and make an adjustment on the ball and have those good hands. They’re pass protecting. They’re run blocking. They’re running routes and catching balls. It takes a pretty special athlete.”
Blocking can rob a tight end of energy by itself. The tight end might have to engage anybody from a heavyweight defensive tackle to a blitzing linebacker to a gap-filling safety. The tight end regularly gets his arms punched, which makes catching even more of a chore.
“It’s very tough because we don’t catch balls every period in practice like the receivers and running backs do,” Charles said. “You’ve got to be very aggressive when you pass block and run block.
“But when you get into the passing game, you’ve got to be smart and make your reads, then you’ve got to be finesse to get your hands up and catch the ball. When the ball comes my way, I just repeat to myself, ‘Orson, don’t drop the ball, don’t drop the ball, don’t drop the ball.’ I just look it right into my hands and don’t drop it.”
Charles’ pass-catching season started slowly as the Bulldogs threw to the perimeter mostly early in the season. Charles caught nine passes in the first six games of the season. Aron White caught five passes and Bruce Figgins caught none during that span.
Georgia played the first four games without Green. After Green’s return, holes in opposing defenses opened more often.
“The key word or this year was patience,” Charles said. “It was frustrating knowing I could get the ball but things weren’t working it my way. One of the things for this season brought together was that we’ve got to keep fighting and hold on. In the second half of the season, I just gave it all in and had fun again.”
Charles caught 15 passes in the second half of the season – including a six-catch, 108-yard, one-touchdown performance against Florida.
He had a 32-yard touchdown catch against Georgia Tech and was voted second-team All-Southeastern Conference by the league’s coaches.
“I think A.J. showing up helped,” Richt said. “Any time you’re here and A.J.’s there, he’s going to get some attention and create more space down the middle of the zone where tight ends tend to work. But I think there came a time when he quit focusing on that part of the game and played hard and let the chips fall where they may. That seems to have worked out for him.”