ATHENS - Among some fans, there seem to be a rush to anoint Jay Rome as the next big thing at tight end, the heir apparent to Orson Charles.
But know this, Georgia fans: Right now the starter is Arthur Lynch. And it's not even that close.
That's been obvious during the early portion of spring practice. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo verbalized it on Tuesday.
"Lynch I've been real pleased with," Bobo said when asked about the tight ends. "He's taken his role and done a good job with it. He's been very positive. He's been physical at times. ... There's little things Arty has to work on. He's a smart guy that's enabled us to do some things.
"Jay, he missed a lot playing basketball. Not that we were out there practicing, but some meetings that we had. He's a little bit behind. He's just gotta get himself into football shape. But he's still young and I think he's got a bright future."
It's no surprise that people would expect Rome to step in for Charles. Rome was a five-star recruit in 2011, perhaps the nation's top tight end prospect. He's a big guy (6-foot-6, 254 pounds) who was athletic enough to play on the UGA men's basketball team this season.
But he's also far behind Lynch in knowing the offense, and the Georgia staff has shown over and over that it will defer to veterans who are proficient in the system. That goes for offense and defense.
Plus, Lynch has been a good citizen waiting for his turn, taking a redshirt in 2010 and cheerfully accepting a third-string role last year behind Charles and Aron White. He's quarterback Aaron Murray's roommate, which isn't a factor because of favoritism, but it does help Lynch and Murray form a quick rapport, the way Murray and Charles (ex-high school teammates) did.
The trick for Lynch (6-6, 272 pounds) will be showing he can be more than a blocker. He has caught just two passes in his three years on campus. But as the clear first-teamer, Lynch is getting a chance to run routes and work with the starters this spring, and teammates have said Lynch is doing a fine job.
Rome has time to catch up. And both will play, along with perhaps incoming freshman Ty Smith. But from the look of things, and Bobo's comments, Rome will have to make a big leap to prevent Lynch from being the starter against Buffalo on Sept. 1.
Meanwhile, the wideouts appear to be in somewhat of a holding pattern until Malcolm Mitchell comes back. Assuming he does come back.
You can read my story today on the good-natured tug-of-war (at least publicly good-natured) for the services of Mitchell. Everyone does expect Mitchell to play receiver this season, it's just a matter of whether it's full-time or part-time.
In his absence, receivers coach Tony Ball doesn't appear too crazy about the performance of the other receivers so far this spring. It hasn't helped that Chris Conley (wrist surgery) has been limited and Rantavious Wooten (pulled leg muscle) has been out.
Ball, speaking after Tuesday's practice, was tepid in his praise of the receivers thus far, singling out only Marlon Brown.
"Marlon is working really hard, working on a lot of little things, and practicing really physical, which I really like," Ball said. "He's probably the one guy that stands out when you look at the complete player. He's probably the one guy."
A cynic might point out that Brown has earned raves for years about his practices, but has never quite put it together during real games. Yes, a cynic might point that out.
Of course it's still very early, so no need to get too worried about the receivers, especially with so many experienced players back, such as Conley, Tavarres King and Michael Bennett.
The newcomer who has moved into the mix is Justin Scott-Wesley, who redshirted last year. The key this spring for Scott-Wesley, whose quickness is well-known, is to show his route-running is up to par.
"That's still a work in progress," Ball said. "Justin's still a freshman. He was unable to do some things becaus eof track early in spring. So he's still a work in progress but he's a student of the game and he wants to be good. So we'll see."
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