Blazevich looks to add to Georgia’s tight end legacy

Jeb Blazevich would like to tell you that he was attracted to Georgia by its rich legacy of tight ends. But he can’t.

The truth is, Blazevich didn’t learn that guys such as Arthur Lynch, Orson Charles, Leonard Pope, Ben Watson and Randy McMichael played for the Bulldogs until well after he committed to UGA.

“Yeah, the legacy part was a really cool factor, but I found that out and researched it more after I committed here,” said the 6-foot-5, 232-pound freshman from Charlotte, N.C.

“I jumped on board because of what they’ve got going on right now with coach (John) Lilly and coach (Mark) Richt and the team they’re putting together. And I just fell in love with Athens and everything about it. At the end of the day I just felt like it’s where God wanted me to be.”

But once Blazevich found out what the Bulldogs have been doing with tight ends over the years, “I was like, ‘this makes a lot of sense.’”

Early indications are that Blazevich’s name could one day be included in that legacy.

The freshman arrived at UGA this summer, and he came in behind three other established tight ends. Yet as the 13th-ranked Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) enter their sixth game, against No. 23 Missouri (4-1, 1-0), Blazevich is set to start his fourth consecutive game.

“Coach Lilly always uses this word: He’s a ‘conscientious’ kid,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said of Blazevich. “He takes everything serious, works extremely hard. That long pass that Todd (Gurley) threw to him, if you go back and look at it, as the ball’s coming to him and he makes the catch, he looks that ball in the whole way.

“Everything little thing coach Lilly teaches about how to play the position, how to block, how to step, how to catch, he tries to do it exactly as Coach says. And he’s got talent, too. He’s a good player. But the little things have set him apart and helped him make plays as a freshman.”

Georgia knew it had acquired a potentially good tight end when he signed out of Charlotte Christian High. Blazevich was a consensus four-star prospect that ESPN rated as the No. 2 tight end in the nation.

Blazevich had an extremely productive prep career at Charlotte Christian. He finished with 1,520 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns in four seasons as a varsity starter and helped lead his team to back-to-back state championships. Blazevich also got a lot of attention as a defensive end. His senior season he recorded 85 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Now almost halfway into his freshman season, Blazevich is the Bulldogs’ fourth-leading receiver, with 139 yards on seven catches. But while it is his pass-catching ability that has brought him attention — remember his leaping catch against South Carolina — his blocking ability earned him playing time.

With Gurley having a Heisman Trophy-like season at tailback, the tight end’s primary job has been to secure the edge in the running game.

“Coming in, I just wanted to work to get better at everything,” Blazevich said. “Coach Lilly and the other guys in our room are just trying to make the best of what I have to offer. … I guess I bring a good little balance of being able to go run routes and also being able to block a good little bit. I don’t know. I’m just trying to fit the role for whatever they need me to do for the week.”

Blazevich has come through in a season in which Georgia very much needed help at tight end. Junior Jay Rome continues to be nagged by a foot injury that required surgery after last season, and redshirt freshman Jordan Davis appears to be a year away from being ready to contribute. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs cross-trained Quayvon Hicks to play fullback and tight end. But thanks to Blazevich, he’s now playing more of the former and less of the latter.

“He learned very fast,” Richt said of Blazevich. “He’s in great condition when he showed up. He certainly has a ways to go in his development, but for a guy to come in and play that position going against some pretty talented guys, I think he’s done very well.”