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Dogs plan to expand tight ends' role this year
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ATHENS — The room has a player from Florida, whom they call their father, even though he's the youngest. It has a soft-spoken Columbus resident. It can boast at least one thick Massachusetts accent. And it has someone to stick up for Missouri.

The tight end position is the deepest on the Georgia football roster. And its meeting room may be the most hilarious.
"It gets a little hysterical in there sometimes," said Aron White, a junior from Missouri. "Everybody has a good time in there. We laugh a lot. We've got just a wide variety of people in there."

A wide variety of talent.

How deep is the unit? White is nominated for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end. But he's not even getting most of the snaps with Georgia's first team.

That would be Orson Charles, a sophomore from Tampa, Fla. Charles is the one who is looked up to — but only playfully — by his fellow tight ends.

"First of all, they're all my childrens. I'm their father," Charles said, smiling. "It's just a little joke we play."

Charles started three times as a true freshman in 2009, leading the tight ends with 23 catches, 374 yards and three touchdowns. Now he will be hauling in passes from new quarterback Aaron Murray, who attended the same Tampa high school as Charles.

White started 12 times last year and was the offensive MVP of the Independence Bowl.

The pair each emerged last year, as playing time opened after a shoulder injury to Bruce Figgins. He's the product of Columbus who said he benefited from the painful experience of not being able to play.

Figgins, the biggest of the group, started his career in spectacular fashion, catching a touchdown pass in his first career game, in 2007. But he only has four more career catches to his credit and had to sit out all of last year.

"I needed that," Figgins said. "I needed that for myself. It was a lot of things learned for me, not just on the field but off the field last year. I really needed that to grow up, to mature, in different areas. ...

"My love for the game is just off the chart. Having to sit out and watch the bus leave on Fridays, just wearing your warm-up suit, not being able to go run out with the guys on Saturday, it's tough to watch. It's real tough to watch."

But now Figgins will play, according to head coach Mark Richt, despite the crowded depth at the position, that also includes sophomore Arthur Lynch.

Lynch, from Dartmouth, Mass., started once last year and had a touchdown catch in this year's spring game. He also not only speaks with a thick accent, but writes with it, too, so much so that center Ben Jones said he sometimes can't decipher Lynch's text messages.

"I think that everybody in the tight end room thinks their high school would've destroyed everybody else's high school," White said. "We have a good little debate over whether it's the Georgia education or the Massachusetts education. Who's smarter or who had the better team or who puts out more players year in and year out. Things like that.

"We've got Orson down there reppin' Florida, all day and every day. And then Bruce is like, 'But everybody came to Georgia.' It goes on all day all long."

They can afford to be casual, rather than ultra-competitive with each other. After all, Georgia has a long history of sending tight ends to the pros, including Ben Watson and Randy McMichael. And a few years ago Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner split snaps, but each got time in the NFL.

This year, Richt is vowing to use some double tight-end sets and to "substitute freely" at tight end and all skill positions.
"We all know that we're capable of starting," Charles said. "We all know that we all have our talents. We know that we can help Georgia win. So instead of hating each other we just go out there and have fun and help each other out."

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