Georgia’s Oscar Delp trying to be best tight end he can be

Credit: Chip Towers/AJC

ATHENS — For every elite athlete, there comes that moment when you realize you’re playing your sport on an entirely different level. For Georgia’s Oscar Delp, that moment came earlier than most.

As an early enrollee, the West Forsyth High graduate was allowed by NCAA rule to participate with the Bulldogs in their practices for the 2021 College Football Playoff. Before he knew it, Delp found himself lined up across from defensive end Travon Walker, who would be taken No. 1 in the NFL draft four months later.

“He basically just walked me back as far as he wanted,” said Delp, laughing about it Tuesday after Georgia’s 12th practice of preseason camp. “That’s when I knew I had a lot of things to learn to play in the SEC and to play for Georgia.”

Twenty months later, Delp has learned and done a lot of those things. To start with, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end is 20 pounds heavier than he was during those Orange Bowl practices in 2021. Meanwhile, Delp is infinitely more versed now on the vagaries of blocking defensive ends and outside linebackers from the tight end position.

With 6-7, 280-pound tight end Darnell Washington now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bulldogs desperately needed someone at the position to step up as a blocker. Nearly a thousand-yard receiver coming out of high school, Delp’s blocking skills weren’t the reason Georgia signed him. But now he’s the solid No. 2 behind Brock Bowers in the tight end rotation, it’s something Georgia expects him to do to the highest degree.

“He had such a long way to go,” tight ends coach Todd Hartley said. “… The growth he’s had from spring to summer to now has been exponential. I’m very proud of how hard he’s worked.”

Delp’s progress in that particular area became even more important during the Bulldogs’ preseason preparations. Freshman Pearce Spurlin (6-7, 230) already was sidelined for camp while recovering from a collarbone injury when fellow tight end Lawson Luckie went out with an ankle injury this past weekend.

Bowers can, of course, also block at an exceptional level. But with 1,824 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns scored the past two seasons, that’s not something Georgia wants him to spend a lot of time doing.

One of the aspects of Georgia’s offense that made it so effective last season was the Bulldogs’ ability to operate out of “12″ personnel. That means they’re utilizing one back and two wide receivers.

Hartley, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Georgia’s offensive brain trust still are in the process of determining whether that will be the primary formation this season. Delp’s ability to do a lot of the things Washington did will go a long way toward determining that.

Delp is not expected to suddenly shoot up another 2-1/2 inches or to be able to match Washington’s tremendous wingspan. But Hartley thought both he and Bowers – and the Bulldogs’ other tight ends – could stand gain some girth. So he had the group enter into a weight-gain competition.

Delp was proud to be declared winner. He edged Bowers (who’s up to 240) 15 pounds to 10 during seven months that encompassed the offseason. The key is neither claims to have lost any of their exceptional speed.

“They want me to play like kind of around that weight and as much as I can maintain,” Delp said. “The biggest thing was just getting stronger in the weight room and really just getting my legs stronger, chest bigger, arms stronger and everything. Just working out a ton and trusting the strength coaches and the strength staff and the nutrition staff and just eating everything they told me to.

“I’m just buying into the process and really trying to just put on as much weight as possible and get used to it running around in it.”

When Georgia opened preseason camp two weeks ago, Bobo three skill-position groups basically were competing against each other to determine how the Bulldogs’ offense is going to look this season. Based on his production the past two years, Bowers figures to be a focal player regardless of how that shakes out. He is attempting to join Herschel Walker and David Pollack as the only other three-time All-Americans in Georgia football history.

Pressed into service in 12 games last season last season, Delp came through in a big way when Washington was sidelined in the Chick-fil-Peach Bowl national semifinal. For the season, he finished with five catches for 61 yards, with 28 coming on a touchdown against South Carolina.

Eventually, though, the Bulldogs are expecting Delp to become the next Bowers. He exhibits most of the traits, with exceptional speed to match his size and high-level, pass-catching skills.

For now, Delp doesn’t like to even consider such comparisons.

“I love playing with Brock and everything, but I’m just trying to be the next Oscar Delp,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “I mean, obviously everyone wants to be like Brock Bowers and make the plays that he makes. They’re crazy. It’s great to have a guy like that in the (group) that can kind of mentor me and also just be one of my buddies that I just hang out with. But I’m just trying to focus on my game and just be the next Oscar Delp.”

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