While the running game was the big beneficiary of Georgia’s adjustments on offense against Tennessee, one other consequence was the role of the tight ends. The position was limited anyway by an injury to Charlie Woerner, but the wider formations meant a lot less of the three-TE sets favored when Georgia attempted to establish a power running game earlier in the year. It seemed as if the tight ends were more involved thanks to Nauta’s productive game and big score, but Smart chuckled at a question about the position’s role in the Tennessee game. “I thought they were used less (against Tennessee). We had less tight ends on the field.”
The tights ends did have a place in the spread formations: tight ends were often kept in tight to block or – as on Nauta’s TD reception – release down the middle of the field, but they also occasionally lined up as the outermost receiver with a wide receiver in the slot. That look forced Tennessee to either cover the split TE with a cornerback (creating a size mismatch) or move a bigger defender over from the middle of the field (reducing the number of defenders in the box.) It just meant that we saw a lot more one and two-TE sets rather than three at a time required by some of the tight formations. “We had less tight ends on the field than we’ve had in previous weeks,” explained Smart.
Even as the coaches consider changes to open up the running game and get the most out of the talent at tailback, they still have to weigh the tradeoff of fewer snaps for the offense’s other deep and talented position group. Smart concluded, “We’ve got to continue to use those guys because they’re good blockers and they give us an opportunity to do more things. They create problems for the defense, too.”