Georgia’s Arthur Lynch finds a home in the SEC

When Arthur Lynch was being recruited out of Dartmouth, Mass., he could have gone to college pretty much anywhere. At the time he was rated the No. 1 prospect in the state and the No. 2 tight end in the country. He could have fulfilled his goals and aspirations at Boston College or Connecticut and occasionally gotten home on the weekends.

But he decided to come South, and that had nothing to do with the weather or the cuisine.

“Well, I love Massachusetts,” said Lynch, his Northeastern accent less prominent five years later. “But there’s nothing like SEC football, and it was one of those things you can only experience here. The love and appreciation people have for the game of football in the Southeast, especially the state of Georgia, you can’t mimic it. It’s one of those things I appreciate to the fullest.”

There were times Lynch questioned his logic. Every once in a while, he longed for a good meal of haddock and clams. And, when he was buried on the depth chart a year or so in, his heart ached for home and family.

But Lynch (6-foot-5, 254 pounds) never lost sight of the reason he made that initial 860-mile drive down the coast. He wanted to play college football at the highest level.

Which makes it all the sweeter now that he is being judged as the best of the best. Now a senior, Lynch was the runaway choice of SEC media as preseason first-team, all-conference tight end and was included on the watch lists for the prestigious Mackey Award.

Having seen himself morph from forgotten redshirt to “the blocking tight end” and now to the player judged best in the league at his position been beautifully affirming for Lynch.

“It’s definitely an honor,” he said. “It means that we’ve had success at Georgia. There’s been a lot of publicity for the tight end position over the years at Georgia, and I don’t think it’s been undeserved because I think we as a unit have produced. But, personally, it’s been a nice affirmation. Hopefully, if all goes well, they’re saying the same thing in four or five months. Then I’ll be pumped.”

Lynch’s distinction can be explained several ways. First of all, there’s not exactly a large group of quality tight ends in the league, much less the country. Ever heard of Austin Tate (Arkansas’ tight end) or Eric Waters (Missouri)? And in the modern age of spread offenses with four wideouts, there’s just not as many prototypical tight ends out there.

Also, Lynch’s performance at the end of last season left a lasting impression. ESPN recently deemed last year’s SEC Championship game as the best game of 2012, and it was one of the most-watched games on television last fall. Lynch had three catches for 50 yards in the last minute of the game.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is willing to stump for his former roommate.

“Arthur had an unbelievable year,” Murray said emphatically. “He had, what, 26 or 27 catches? He didn’t even have his first catch I think until the fourth or fifth game, and then he just balled out from there.”

Lynch actually had 24 catches for 431 yards and three scores last season. Eighteen of those came in the final eight games. Lynch had only two other receptions previously his career, the other two coming as a freshman in 2009. He redshirted in 2010.

“Everyone thinks you can’t be a first-team tight end if you don’t have a bunch of catches, but rarely does anybody look and see how well he blocks, and that’s his specialty,” Murray said. “He’s able to block in the run game and stay in on pass protection as well, so that’s another whole aspect of his game fans don’t really get to see or realize. They just go look at the stats and see who has the most catches and touchdowns. But that’s just part of the game for the tight end, and Arthur is really a fully-rounded tight end who does everything well.”

It’s something at which Lynch has worked extremely hard. With dynamic playmakers such as the high-flying Jay Rome nipping at his heels on the depth chart, Lynch knew he had to improve on running routes and catching passes.

“Artie has always been a very conscientious worker,” tight ends coach John Lilly said. “Although I know it was probably hard for him to do, he prepared with a purpose while patiently waiting for his opportunity, which is very rare in today’s world. When that opportunity came, he improved daily and became an important player for our offense in 2012.”

As for 2013, Lynch gets excited when talk turns to Georgia’s potential.

“Me and Jay have been trying to establish ourselves as a pretty good tandem at the tight end position, and I think there’s an opportunity for us to make some noise,” Lynch said. “Potentially we could be very good because of the maturity of our backfield and our offensive line. Anybody with half a football mind understands that when you dominate the line of scrimmage and you have two guys in the backfield that can take it to the house at any time, the sky’s the limit.”