Young Georgia tight ends getting great example, opportunities in camp

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs08/09/23


ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s tight end room is as talented as they come. Everybody in the country knows Brock Bowers, but he’s not the only one in there working with tight ends coach Todd Hartley. Oscar Delp, Pearce Spurlin and Lawson Luckie were all also top-10 tight ends in their respective recruiting classes, and according to Hartley, the best thing for them and their development is to be around Bowers and learn his ways.

Bowers has finished first on the team in receiving each of the last two seasons. With nearly 2,000 total yards to his name going into his junior year, there’s a reason why he took home the title of the nation’s top tight end last year by winning the Mackey Award.

But before too long, Bowers won’t be in Athens anymore. This time next year, he’ll likely be preparing for his first NFL preseason game while Delp, Spurlin, Luckie and the two tight end commits that Georgia’s got in the Class of 2024 get ready for life without him. So, while this year is absolutely about using Bowers’ ability to help Georgia go after a third straight National Championship, it’s also about getting the trio that’s on campus up to speed.

“Kids are happy when they get reps. I think we do a phenomenal job at Georgia of getting kids reps. One, that increases their development. Two, it keeps them involved,” Hartley said on Tuesday when asked about how he manages to keep all the tight ends happy. “The way we practice here, I think, is unlike any other place in the country. The way Kirby organizes these practices, y’all have been out there. There’s not one person standing around ever, not even the injured guys. Kids are constantly getting better. If they feel like they’re working, if they feel like they’re getting developed, then naturally they’re going to be happy. Now it does come back at some point, there’s only one football. You’ve got to find a way to get your playmakers involved and show them that they could have a chance to change the gameplan.”

“These guys, specifically in my room, I think they’re a special group,” he continued. “I think they’re very well connected. They truly care about each other. We talk about feeding the fire and being truly selfless, putting the team first in all that we do. You’ve got to check your ego. In today’s world, guess what, checking your ego, especially when you have five-stars and four-stars, is hard to do. But at this place, you better learn to do that real fast. I think my guys have done a great job of doing that.”

That brings us to the development of Delp, Spurlin and Luckie. Delp, the oldest of the young trio going into his sophomore season, was on campus last season and saw what Georgia was able to do with two outstanding tight ends in Bowers and Darnell Washington. Now with Washington gone, he’s been asked to step into a bigger role – putting on 20 pounds of weight in the process according to Georgia’s online roster.

“Very proud of how hard he’s worked. He was another one of those kids that was a projection tight end. Whatever the ratings were, we don’t look at those ratings. I looked at him as a player, we liked what we saw from tape and from camp. But he had such a long way to go,” Hartley said. “He put himself in a position to contribute last year and he did that. And then when it mattered the most when Darnell came out in the semifinal game he was able to go in there and perform at a high-level.”

“Even from that point though, even from the Ohio State game, the growth he’s had from spring to summer to now has been exponential. I’m very proud of how hard he’s worked. He knows there’s a void with Darnell leaving that we have to have at the point of attack from the tight end standpoint. He knows he has the potential to fill that void. So he had to attack his blocking technique, his run game fundamentals, his pass game fundamentals. And he has done that,” he continued. “When he came in, that is where he has lacked the most. From where he was when he came in to where he is now, I am very, very pleased with how hard he has worked to get to this point.”

Delp was the No. 2 tight end in the country for the Class of 2022. Ranked No. 83 overall per the On3 Industry Ranking, Delp chose in-state Georgia over his family ties to South Carolina. Last season as a freshman, he hauled in five passes for 61 yards including a 28-yard touchdown against the Gamecocks. Delp was named to the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award this year.

Then there’s the freshmen. Both Spurlin and Luckie were on campus in the spring, but only one was an active participant in drills. That’s because Spurlin suffered a broken collarbone in the first week. Luckie, who received more reps as a result of the shortage of bodies without Spurlin, took advantage of the opportunity and showed signs of being a possible impact player in his first season.

“I’ve seen great progress in both those guys,” Hartley said when asked to assess the freshmen. “Obviously Luckie had a very good spring, took advantage of the reps that he got and was able to make some plays and show that he was able to potentially do something for us in our offense. Pearce is right there, too. Pearce is getting his opportunity this camp. One thing he was nervous about was playing tight end. Pearce never played tight end, Pearce played receiver in high school. A lot of these new-age tight ends that we recruit, they don’t play tight end. It’s hard to find tight ends in high school. A lot of them are projection prospects. You’re projecting them to be a tight end. Pearce is one of those guys that has come in and has embraced his role and is learning to play the position. I’m very excited, I’m very pleased with how both of them have performed to this point.”

Spurlin was the higher rated of the two tight ends according to the On3 Industry Ranking. He ranked No. 2 in the country for the Class of 2023 (No. 68 overall) while Luckie came in at No. 8.

Georgia’s young tight ends could get some opportunities to show what they’re made of early in the season with a softer-than-normal schedule. The Bulldogs open against FCS opponent UT-Martin while also playing Ball State and UAB in the first month. They’ll also have chances in the team’s preseason scrimmages, the first of which is set for Saturday.

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