There is a recurring topic that is irritating Georgia third-year football coach Kirby Smart, and it has nothing to do with the publicized quarterback competition between returning starter Jake Fromm and heralded early enrollee Justin Fields.
Instead, the conversation concerns offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and whether his move from overseeing quarterbacks to handling tight ends would result in the tight ends having more receptions this year. Smart was asked after Saturday's second scrimmage if tight ends were being targeted more this spring.
"I am so tired of tight-end questions," Smart replied in a news conference. "To be honest with you, I don't know if they've caught it more or less. The end line for me is 'How many points do you score?'"
Georgia held its 13th spring practice Tuesday afternoon, working out for more than two hours. The Bulldogs will practice again Thursday before conducting their annual G-Day spring game Saturday, which has a 4 p.m. start and will be televised by ESPN.
Tight ends had a big part in Georgia's passing attack during Smart's first season in 2016, with Isaac Nauta, Jeb Blazevich and Charlie Woerner combining on 40 receptions for 480 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, however, those three combined on just 20 catches for 233 yards and two scores.
Georgia's offense overall, however, skyrocketed from 384.7 yards and 24.5 points per contest in 2016 to 435.3 yards and 35.4 points a game last season, when the Bulldogs won their first Southeastern Conference championship in 12 years and lost in overtime to Alabama in the title game of the national playoffs. Last season's attack was led by the running-back tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, with Chubb rushing for 1,345 yards and 6.0 yards per carry and with Michel amassing 1,227 yards on 7.9 per rush.facebook
"Obviously this team is different from what we had last year," Nauta said in a recent news conference. "We had two of the best rushers in SEC history and in Georgia history. Those guys were going to get the ball, because they were super-talented. It's just the way it was, and I improved as a blocker.
"I think I had a better year overall than I did as a freshman as far as growth and as far as blocking."
The most memorable play by a Bulldogs tight end last season was Nauta's 41-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter against Mississippi State that put Georgia up 28-3. Woerner had three receptions during the first quarter of the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day before getting injured, and Nauta does sense the tight ends being more of a factor this year.
For now, though, it's about learning under Chaney, who coached tight ends for the St. Louis Rams from 2006 to 2008.
"He's definitely put an emphasis on blocking and route-running," Nauta said. "He coached tight ends in the league, so he's got a lot of different techniques and stuff that have already helped us. It's been eye-opening for me already.
"It's been positive, but it hasn't been easy. He's been pushing us, and these have been long practices."
The practices are almost over, which means Smart could get a reprieve on a sore subject.
"If they give us 14 points for Isaac Nauta scoring a touchdown, then we'll start throwing it to him more," Smart said. "If we get 21 points for Charlie to catch one, I promise you we'll design a play to get 21 points. Right now, we're just trying to score points.
"If that includes tight ends, that's great, but tight ends have to be a matchup disaster."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.