Bulldogs finally find way to get ball to tight end Charles
By SETH EMERSON
ATHENS, Ga. — Not many teams feel comfortable calling a tight end screen in a pivotal part of a game. Then again, not a lot of teams have a tight end such as Orson Charles.
He is a chiseled 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds but can run like a wide receiver. He has shown he can catch the ball and has improved as a blocker.
“We feel potentially he’s got a chance to be one of the best that’s ever played here at that position,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
That’s saying a lot for a program that has put six tight ends in the NFL during the past decade and a half. But Bobo compares Charles to one of the all-time greats at the position: Shannon Sharpe, the retired NFL Pro Bowler and a potential Hall of Famer, who went to South Carolina State.
“He wasn’t overly big but ended up making himself a very good blocker, with technique,” Bobo said, “and I think that’s what Orson can do.”
Problem is, for much of this season it has been about what Charles “can do” and not what he has done.
That started to change in Jacksonville last Saturday, when Charles caught a season-high six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. During the previous eight games, the sophomore (who had not been hurt) had combined for 10 catches, 139 yards and no touchdowns.
Plenty of fans complained about the play-calling, wondering why Charles and fellow tight end Aron White weren’t getting more passes their way. Charles said it was more a matter of what happened after the play was called and freshman quarterback Aaron Murray started making his reads.
“I feel like, week in and week out, Coach Bobo was calling plays for the tight ends,” Charles said. “But Aaron’s going through the progressions, and Aaron’s the one picking out where he’s going to throw the ball.”
It’s a bit ironic that Murray was having trouble finding Charles: They were high school teammates as seniors at Plant High School in Tampa. Murray noted it was difficult to spread the passes around to all his options, including wide receivers A.J. Green, and Kris Durham and Tavarres King.
But Murray knows Charles is a weapon.
“He’s very much almost like a receiver in a tight end body, so he’s able to do things most tight ends aren’t able to do, like catch a tight end screen,” Murray said. “He’s just a tremendous asset for us on offense. We’ve tried to get him more involved all year,; him and I just haven’t gotten connected like we wanted to. We definitely connected this past weekend.”
That tight end screen happened in the second half and produced a long gain. Charles’ longest gain came on a 29-yard touchdown, which tied the game in the fourth quarter.
But Charles wasn’t walking around crowing about his performance in Jacksonville. For one thing, the Bulldogs lost. Plus, on the fateful interception in overtime, Charles was blamed for running too deep a route, drawing his man toward Green.
“My guy actually took the ball,” Charles said. “It’s the little things that bite you in the behind.”
Still, the performance against Florida may have signaled a turning point for Charles and his involvement in the offense.
“Sometimes guys are wanting to produce, and sometimes they might get down,” Bobo said. “And when they have to come up here every week and y’all (in the media) ask him why don’t you get the ball, why don’t you get the ball, they get kind of frustrated. I think, two weeks ago, he decided he was going to put it behind him, say he’s going to play hard and let things just happen. It took two weeks, but I think it happened for him.”