The John Mackey Award, given to the country’s most outstanding tight end, has released its 2022 watch list, highlighting players who have opportunities to make a big impact for their team at the position, all in hopes of being the country’s best.
Only five teams had a total of two tight ends make the preseason watch list, but Georgia led the pack with three: Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington and Arik Gilbert.
Todd Monken, the team’s offensive coordinator, and Todd Hartley, the team’s tight ends coach, have to be ecstatic about the depth at the position for the upcoming year, having a plethora of talent and experience hitting the field.
The team is led by sophomore Bowers, coming off an unexpected but stellar freshman season, scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the National Championship game versus Alabama.
Behind Bowers is six-foot-seven junior, Washington, who was ranked second in the 2020 recruiting class at the athlete position. Transferring to Georgia in 2021 from LSU, former number one overall tight end recruit, Gilbert, will enter his first season on the field as a Bulldog, possessing physical qualities that make him a matchup nightmare at six-foot-five and 250 pounds. Those three will likely share the majority of playing time, while true freshman Oscar Delp and redshirt juniors Brett Seither and Ryland Goede will provide necessary depth.
Coming into Georgia as a four star recruit from Napa, California, Bowers had elite athleticism that would allow him to challenge for more and more opportunities as the 2021 season rolled along.
Few to none, however, expected him to have the season he did, boasting 882 yards on 56 receptions, scoring 13 touchdowns.
Shockingly, Bowers was not named as a finalist for the John Mackey Award last season, but didn’t let that affect his play as he scored a touchdown in each of the team’s postseason games.
With another year of experience and repetitions alongside quarterback Stetson Bennett, Bowers will be one of the favorites to win the award as the season begins.
Washington will be entering his third season at Georgia, looking to break out and avoid injury. In his freshman season, Washington hauled in seven receptions for 166 yards, flashing his potential and proving to be a dominant blocker.
Ahead of the 2021 season, the tight end underwent foot surgery. Having to wait until October to make his 2021 debut, he finished the season with increased production from the year prior, catching ten passes for 154 yards and scoring a touchdown in the SEC Championship game.
Hoping to stay healthy with another year under his belt, voters recognize Darnell Washington’s great potential and think he could be poised for a breakout season, putting him towards the top of the watch list for the John Mackey Award.
Coming out of Marietta High School, Gilbert was the highest-ranked tight end in 247Sports composite history, committing to play football at LSU.
In his freshman season, he recorded 35 catches for 368 yards, reaching the end zone twice, flashing his unique ability along the way. After the 2020 season, he announced he would enter the transfer portal, and eventually chose Florida.
However, after a brief time there, he transferred again, this time to Georgia before the 2021 season.
Gilbert spent the 2021 season away from the team, but is back on the field and ready to make an impact for the 2022 team, as he flashed in the recent spring game where he caught three passes for 49 yards and two touchdowns. Gilbert provides versatility and has tremendous potential, being ranked by CBS Sports as the second-best tight end in the 2023 NFL draft class.
A room full of stars
Heading into the 2022 season, the Georgia Bulldogs will likely be more balanced than the national championship team with a record-breaking defense, and the offense will be relied upon more often.
However, this should be no sign of discomfort for fans and coaches, as the tight end room with endless potential should be able to provide Stetson Bennett with many easy targets along the way.
When the 2022 season wraps up, it’s not a long shot to see one of the Bulldog tight ends named a finalist for the John Mackey Award, and it could even be two.
The only question is, which one?
Printed with permission from the Red & Black independent student media organization based in Athens, Georgia; redandblack.com/sports