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Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta had 29 receptions as a freshman, including this 9-yard touchdown in the 35-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Isaac Nauta had no problem living up to expectations.

As a five-star freshman tight end for the Georgia Bulldogs last year, Nauta joined a crowded position group and managed to make five starts in 13 games. He had 29 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns, with his catches and yards ranking third behind receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Terry Godwin.

Last year was nice, but the 6-foot-4, 246-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Buford already has left it behind.

"I definitely need to make a big step in year two," Nauta said in a recent news conference. "After watching film of last season, there are some steps I can take to get better. I need to finish blocks better, and I need to catch everything thrown my way."

Georgia held its 10th spring practice Tuesday, working out for nearly three hours. The Bulldogs will practice again Thursday and hold their second scrimmage Saturday.

Nauta also wants to take on more of a leadership role on an offense containing the senior tailback tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, senior tackle Isaiah Wynn and senior tight end Jeb Blazevich.

The Bulldogs were mediocre offensively for much of last season, though Chubb and Michel were effective more times than not in combining for 1,970 rushing yards. The passing game was erratic, with the versatile, 5-8 McKenzie leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdown catches.

McKenzie is now preparing for the NFL draft, and Georgia is working to develop more punch on the perimeter. That could result in more productive seasons for Godwin, Javon Wims and Riley Ridley, but Nauta doesn't see why he couldn't be the go-to receiver as well.

"I definitely think I could be that guy," he said. "That's one of my goals, to go up and catch balls to help this team win."

Tight end is Georgia's deepest position this spring, with Blazevich and Nauta joined by Charlie Woerner, Jackson Harris and Jordan Davis. Nauta's 29 catches last season more than doubled the 12 receptions the rest of the tight ends had combined, but Smart hopes Nauta isn't the only player at that position who will experience a busier year.

"We'll use all those guys any way we can," Smart told reporters in February.

For now, Nauta will continue to work on a unit that has enjoyed success in recent days against Georgia's defense. It was the defense that was statistically superior last year, most notably during the 13-7 upset of No. 9 Auburn, while the offense never quite seemed to jell under new coordinator Jim Chaney and new starting quarterback Jacob Eason.

"We've been moving the ball really well, and our tight end group has been moving guys," Nauta said. "We're defintely a lot more organized this year. Everybody knows what is going on."

Odds and ends

Safety Dominick Sanders (knee sprain) and right guard Solomon Kindley (ankle) practiced Tuesday after leaving Saturday's scrimmage. Ridley, who had offseason ankle surgery, practiced in a noncontact jersey. The first-team offensive line Tuesday continued to consist of Wynn at left tackle, Pat Allen at left guard, Lamont Gaillard at center, Kindley at right guard and Dyshon Sims at right tackle.

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

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