Forgive Georgia tight ends coach John Lilly for feeling like he wakes up each morning in 2008.
After overseeing the 1-2 punch of Orson Charles and Aron White the past three seasons, Lilly's fifth year in Athens is closely resembling his first. Arthur Lynch, who has two career starts and just two career catches, is the veteran, with redshirt freshman Jay Rome and true freshman Ty Flournoy-Smith next in line.
"This has been my most challenging year, and I've told my wife several times that this reminds me of '08," Lilly said following Thursday night's practice. "Tripp Chandler was a returning starter that year, and while Artie hasn't started, he is in his fourth year in the program and knows what we want and how we want it done.
"The rest of the room is filled with young guys who are learning, and in '08 we had Aron White as a redshirt freshman and Bruce Figgins, who had played as a true freshman."
Thursday's two-hour practice in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts included scenarios that were not covered during Wednesday's simulated half against the scout team. Actor Samuel L. Jackson addressed the team before the workout.
While Charles tries to make his mark as a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and White as a free-agent signee with the Atlanta Falcons, the next wave of Bulldogs tight ends will get a chance. Head coach Mark Richt said tight ends are fighting with fullbacks and the third- and fourth-best receivers as the staff tries to determine the best personnel groupings from which to operate.
That was never an issue with Charles and White, who combined last season for 54 receptions for 675 yards and nine touchdowns.
"I think there is some awareness of that with our guys," Lilly said. "[Offensive coordinator] Mike Bobo and I tell them all the time that every day is like a tryout. We've got some plays in the game plan that we're going to run, and it's just a matter of who we have in the game when we run it. You give guys shots early in the week and by Wednesday or Thursday figure out which guy you want to use on certain plays.
"We had guys in the past who we've definitely been comfortable within the running game and the passing game, so our guys are aware."
The 6-foot-5, 258-pound Lynch had both of his catches in 2009 and redshirted in 2010. Rome is 6-6 and 265 pounds, so Georgia will have its largest tight end tandem in several seasons.
"They're a little bigger than Orson and Aron were, so there are different places they may be able to operate a little more effectively," Lilly said. "They will be involved in the passing game, but it may look a little different at times. Our offense is our offense and we recruit to our system, and I do think those guys can operate within the framework of our passing game.
"This has been challenging, but it's also been exciting. As a coach, you love to see guys grow and improve. You like to see that light come on with certain guys, so that has been neat."