Some trends are easy to spot. Some fly below the radar. This one, for me, was something I had noticed, but hadn't fully grasped until I actually sat down and looked at the numbers.
Here's a look at the stats from all seven tight ends Georgia has faced so far this season:
|Player|| vs. UGA||Season||Avg/Game|| Best Non-UGA|
| W. Youman (OSU)||2-25-0||7-82-1||1-12|| 2-23-1 (Baylor)|
| W. Saunders (SC)||8-96-0||17-194-0||2.5-28|| 4-50-0 (NC St)|
| DJ Williams (Ark)||4-58-1||14-161-2||2-23|| 6-57-1 (Auburn)|
| D. Knapp (ASU)||0-0-0||1-2-0||N/A|| 1-2-0 (Stanford)|
| R. Dickson (LSU)||3-31-0||12-103-0||1.7-15|| 3-27-0 (La-Laf)|
| L. Stocker (Tenn)||4-68-0||13-180-0||2-26|| 2-46-0 (Auburn)|
| A. Monahan (Van)||1-11-0||10-92-0||1.4-13|| 3-31-0 (W Car)|
Looking at these numbers, what can we say about how Georgia defends tight ends this season?
Well, for one, of the seven tight ends Georgia has faced, four of them have had their best game of the season against the Dawgs. Of those other three:
-- D.J. Williams didn't miss his season high by much against Georgia, and he sat out nearly the entire first half due to an injury.
-- Arizona State essentially doesn't use its tight end. Dan Knapp has just one catch all season.
-- Austin Monahan was below his season averages against Georgia, but most of that was collected against non-conference foes early. In his past five games, including vs. Georgia, Monahan has just two catches for 16 yards, 11 of which came against the Dawgs.
Actually, here's perhaps a slightly better representation of what we've seen:
In all games not against Georgia, these seven TEs are averaging 1.2 catches for 12.5 yards per game.
Against Georgia, they're averaging 3.14 catches for 41.3 yards per game.
In other words, Georgia is allowing more than triple the average production from tight ends that those same players are accumulating against other teams this season.
Of course, you might say, hey, even at that, it's just a difference of 29 yards per game. That doesn't really have a significant effect on the outcome, right?
Well, it is tantamount to three first downs over the course of a game, so it's probably nothing to sneeze at. But the bigger issue is this: Why would opposing play callers go to their tight ends -- players who appear to rarely be key aspects of the offense -- at triple the rate against Georgia they would against someone else? Obviously they see something on the film that makes them believe Georgia is vulnerable to the tight end, right?
But again, it's just 29 yards per game, so why is it really important?
Because of this:
| A. Hernandez||33||392|
| R. Cooper||27||396|
| D. Nelson||8||79|
| O. Hines||7||98|
| B. James||7||93|
| D. Thompson||6||146|
Those are Florida's receiving leaders this season. The name at the top of that list is tight end Aaron Hernandez. The Gators essentially have two real receiving threats, Riley Cooper and their tight end.
In fact, Hernandez's season averages are 5 catches and 56 yards per game. If Georgia allows, on average, three times the production to tight ends that they normally accumulate, Hernandez would be looking at a line of 15 catches for 168 yards on Saturday.
And that's a difference of more than just three first down.
Anyway, here's what Willie Martinez had to say about Mr. Hernandez:
"I don't know if you can slow him down. You just make yourself aware of where he lines up because he is a go-to guy. Hernandez has been a tremendous player for them and has made play after play in every big game they've had. Just knowing where he's at -- they have so many weapons -- and obviously in the passing game we know he's a big target, along with Riley Cooper."
Well, I guess knowing that he's good is a start. But that part about not knowing if he can be slowed down... that's less encouraging.
Of course, there is some good news. Georgia gets linebackers Akeem Dent and Marcus Dowtin back this week. Dent still isn't 100 percent, but he's an experienced strongside linebacker. Dowtin's return also allows Darryl Gamble to slide over and play more Sam this week. And Georgia's worst outing against a tight end was vs. South Carolina, a week when Darius Dewberry missed the game with an injury.
So while the Bulldogs have clearly struggled at stopping tight ends this season, they may be in a better position to alter that history this week than they have been at any other point.And if Georgia can keep Hernandez at bay, Florida's offense looks a lot more manageable.