Georgia's Orson Charles doesn't need the Sept. 4 opener against Louisiana-Lafayette to arrive to make a declaration about the Bulldogs in 2010.
"It's just like when Ben Watson, Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner were here," Charles said. "Georgia's tight ends are back. We're going to produce this year."
The Bulldogs have the unique and pleasant predicament of returning four tight ends with starting experience. Aron White made 12 starts last season, while Charles made three and Arthur Lynch had one, and Bruce Figgins made two starts in 2008 before missing last season due to a suspension and shoulder surgery.
White and Charles headline the quartet, which has become a no-lose situation for tight ends coach John Lilly.
"You always want depth for a variety of reasons, but I think it also creates a great competition, and it forces everybody to maximize their potential," Lilly said. "We're looking for the best ways to maximize what they do best. All these guys bring different things to the table."
Though White started every game in which he played and had 11 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns, his performances often were overshadowed by the emergence of Charles. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder from Tampa compiled 23 catches for 374 yards and three touchdowns, including a 44-yard score during the win at Arkansas.
Charles ranked third on the team in catches behind A.J. Green (53) and Michael Moore (25), and his yardage total was third behind Green (808) and Tavarres King (377).
"I think Orson had a good year from the standpoint that he made plays in some big games," Lilly said. "Everybody tends to focus a lot on statistics and numbers, but the thing that probably goes a step beyond for Orson is that not only did he catch a decent number of balls, but he also did some good things blocking and in other areas that are a little more of the unknown. He certainly had a promising freshman year and definitely scratched the surface of his potential."
Said Charles: "I feel that I had an all right year, and the reason I say all right is because we finished 8-5. I made some personal goals, but those don't exceed the goals we had as a team. I didn't come in as a freshman thinking I was going to be 8-5. Shreveport was a good bowl game, don't get me wrong, but we came in trying to get a ring and going to the national championship."
White (6-4, 236) and Charles were used occasionally last season at slot receiver due to a lack of depth on the perimeter. Lilly said those two could do that again this year if needed but hopes it doesn't come to that from an injury perspective.
Figgins (6-4, 260) and Lynch (6-5, 250) may not be as versatile at receiving, but their size is appreciated in the running game, especially in short-yardage situations.
"The coaches are going to do a good job of putting us out there to do what we do best," Charles said. "We're happy to be out there, and we're pushing each other to be better. We're all competing on the field and in the weight room, but off the field we chill and are happy being around each other.
"We just want to win and get a ring. That's what we're here for."
Gamble now outside
Senior Darryl Gamble practiced Tuesday at strongside linebacker after working at middle linebacker during the first 11 spring workouts. New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said the move was in the works before outside linebacker Montez Robinson was dismissed from the team Sunday.
"He can play outside and inside for us," Grantham said. "We'll be like that for this week. Once we get through this week, we'll re-evaluate it and see where guys need to be in the fall."
The Bulldogs currently have Justin Houston, Cornelius Washington and Gamble heading the outside linebackers, with Akeem Dent, Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin leading those inside.