published Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Rome ready to roam for Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia tight end Jay Rome had just nine catches for 99 yards in an injury-plagued 2013 season.
Georgia tight end Jay Rome had just nine catches for 99 yards in an injury-plagued 2013 season.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia's pipeline of tight ends during the Mark Richt era has included Ben Watson, Leonard Pope, Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch.

Now redshirt junior Jay Rome is wanting his opportunity entering Saturday's opener against visiting Clemson. ESPN's top tight end prospect nationally in the 2011 recruiting class, Rome began to show promise late in the 2012 season but had his sophomore year cut short by a foot injury that required surgery.

"Even in games I did play in, it was for only a series or two," Rome said Tuesday. "I was trying to play through an injury, so I am really anxious to go out there and play full speed. I want to start this game, finish this game, and show everybody what a healthy Jay Rome can do."

The 6-foot-6, 254-pounder from Valdosta is listed as a co-starter with junior Quayvon Hicks, who is expected to be used at fullback as well as tight end this season.

Rome's foot kept him sidelined from some practices earlier this month, and he hopes to be at 100 percent by Saturday. He is Georgia's most experienced tight end and will be needed to help combat Clemson's defensive front headed by senior end Vic Beasley.

"Jay and I worked really hard in the offseason and in camp," quarterback Hutson Mason said. "His foot wasn't always healthy at the beginning of camp, but he looks great now. He's my guy, and hopefully that timing and that hard work will pay off."

Going the distance

Georgia junior tailback Todd Gurley will be hard-pressed to have his first carry of the season match his initial one from last year.

In last year's opener at Clemson, Gurley's first rush resulted in a 75-yard touchdown. He was injured on the play but still finished with 154 yards on just 12 carries.

"I strained my quad, and I had never done that before," Gurley said. "I couldn't lift my leg up like I wanted. I'm known for breaking tackles, and I definitely couldn't do that like I wanted to."

Mason to Clemson?

Gurley picked the Bulldogs over Clemson in the recruiting process, and Mason briefly had a decision to make between those two schools as well.

"Clemson never offered me," Mason said, "but I took a visit, and when I left there they told me they were going to offer me the next day. When I went home the next day, they called and basically told me that they were going another route and would take two quarterbacks the next year.

"I can remember going home that night -- I absolutely loved Clemson -- and I was back and forth. It would have been tough."

Unknown tailbacks

While Georgia has the proven tailback tandem of Gurley and Keith Marshall as well as the promising freshman punch of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Clemson's situation is a bit thinner. Junior Zac Brooks was the top returning rusher for the Tigers, running 48 times for 246 yards last season, but suffered a year-ending foot injury nine days ago.

Clemson's top two tailbacks for Saturday are senior D.J. Howard and junior C.J. Davidson, who finished fourth and fifth on the team last season with 213 and 155 yards.

"I don't know a lot about their backs," Richt said. "We'll just have to see what those guys have got."

Not that 'Wow'

ESPN recently asked each SEC coach to describe his team in one word. Several picked "hungry" or "eager," with Tennessee's Butch Jones choosing "committed" and Missouri's Gary Pinkel picking "confident." Alabama's Nick Saban and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier went with less enthusiastic terms, selecting "untested" and "decent."

Richt chose "Wow," and he was asked Tuesday to elaborate.

"It wasn't a 'Wow, we're going to be great,'" he said. "It was a 'Wow, I don't know what's going to happen.' I guess people are taking that in different ways."

Odds and ends

Georgia is 36-1 in nonconference games under Richt, with the lone blemish a 45-42 loss to Georgia Tech in 2008. ... Richt on the depth chart released Monday: "I wouldn't go too crazy about that, to be honest." ... Senior receiver Chris Conley (shoulder) practiced Tuesday in a noncontact jersey. ... Richt confirmed that receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley would miss Saturday's opener. ... Clemson redshirt freshmen cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who once was a Tennessee commitment, is scheduled to start Saturday.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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