ATHENS -- Jeb Blazevich just wants to play football.
In preseason practices, Blazevich has spent most of his time working with the tight ends, that being his natural position. But that isn’t the only place coaches are testing out the freshman. He takes a few reps at offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s new H-back position every day. Blazevich has even seen some time at fullback, and that was happening before the official announcement of Merritt Hall’s medical disqualification this week.
Quite frankly, Blazevich doesn’t care where coaches put him. In his mind, more positions mean more possibilities of earning early playing time.
“The first week, that was when I started to learn a lot of the traditional fullback position and kind of cross-train (with the H-back position) there,” he said. “Any time I can be on the field, I like it. It’s something fun, something a little more challenging.”
While he admits he’s “a little more comfortable” at tight end, he’s thrilled to try out multiple positions to help master his craft as a football player and not restrict himself to one spot. Along the way, these new roles have even helped him develop his original one.
“And the more I learn at (fullback and H-back), the easier tight end is because now I understand the bigger picture of all that,” Blazevich said.
At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he clearly has the size to effectively play physically at any position. Blazevich purposefully added roughly 15 pounds since summer began and expressed that the “extra weight definitely helps.” But it’s the approach that he has taken to accept the challenge that comes along with learning multiple positions that intrigues coaches and teammates most -- especially considering the difficulty it takes for most freshmen to learn just one. Fellow incoming tight end Joseph Ledbetter even went so far as to say he’s “almost surprised at times that Jeb is a freshman.”
Blazevich, however, might serve as his own harshest critic.
“There’s still the freshman mistakes,” he said. “There’s still the freshman grind of, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I just did that. We just went over that.’ At the same time, there’s times I do things where I’m like, ‘How did I just do that?’ ”
As one of the top tight end recruits in the nation last year, Blazevich earned a spot in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game, offering a rather impressive performance. His wow factor has shown up on several occasions in the preseason, and coaches have taken notice.
Still, they don’t want their expectations to burden the talented freshman.
“You always try to have not too high expectations for guys, but he’s certainly a guy we felt like could be able to learn what we were doing and he could compete,” tight ends coach John Lilly said. “Just based on things before he got here, and I think that’s sort of what he’s shown. You learn a little bit more every day.”
Blazevich has ignored those expectations and anything else that might set him back. As of now, his sole focus has been finding his place within the tight end group to ensure the best tight end is on the field. Perhaps the only person preventing Blazevich from earning that recognition is veteran tight end Jay Rome.
But considering Rome’s injury-plagued history, and Lilly’s willingness to rotate players at that position, more bodies are certainly welcome at tight end.
“It’s no pressure at all,” Rome said. “I’m actually very glad to have the new guys in to teach them and know they can give me relief whenever I need it.”
Before he can give that relief, however, Blazevich accepts that there are still several high school-to-college transitions that he must adjust to.
“The technique especially in terms of the football (has been the biggest challenge). That’s one thing coming out of high school I figured out I wasn’t too good at. More than that, I think I’m thinking too much sometimes,” he said. “I’m definitely doing the best I can. A lot of times, like I said, I overthink it, but once I just slow down and do what I know I can do, I’ll get the job done.”