Georgia TEs want to "continue the tradition"

ATHENS – No one needed to tell Tripp Chandler about the decorated decade Georgia tight ends have had.

When he was growing up, a red-and-black No. 86 Randy McMichael jersey hung in his closet, which was just next to the Ben Watson poster on his bedroom wall. Three Bulldog tight ends – McMichael, Watson and Leonard Pope – have been selected in the first four rounds of the NFL draft since 2002.

Pictures of those players ring the tight end meeting room at Georgia's practice facility.

"Every time they walk in, they see the tradition that we have," tight ends coach David Johnson said. "That's something that I try to keep out in front of them a lot."

Now the caretaking of that legacy falls to Chandler and, more importantly, senior starter Martrez Milner.

"I do feel the weight of it, but I can't follow in their footsteps," Milner said. "Of course, I want to be a first-round draft pick, but mainly I just want to make my team better. I want to do that however I can, blocking or catching."

Catching has been an issue for Milner. He has 19 receptions for 383 yards in his career, but he has an unfortunately earned reputation for dropping catchable passes.

"I think he has something to prove to himself," Johnson said. "I think he has something to prove to our squad, that he is somebody to be trusted and somebody we can rely on to get the ball to."

Both Coach Mark Richt and Johnson have been impressed with Milner this fall, they said.

"Personally I want to prove to myself that I can make plays," Milner said. "I just want to show the world and show myself that I can play football."

At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Milner has all the physical tools to be selected as high or higher than the man he backed up last year, Leonard Pope, who was chosen in the third round of last year's draft, Johnson said.

"I think if he has some success early," Johnson said, "he's going to have a great year and a lot of great things are going to happen."

Chandler, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Woodstock, had four catches for 87 yards in the spring G-Day game and has shown play-making ability in practice, but Milner remains securely in the starting role, Johnson said.

"My dad always told me never limit yourself but know your limits," Chandler said. "In the long run, it's not about me starting, it's about me doing what I can for the team."

Georgia's former tight ends have made sure that Milner and Chandler know what's expected of them. Milner and Pope talk at least once and a month, and Milner recently received a text message from McMichael laying out the expectations for the year.

When Watson was in town last month for the charity Countdown to Kickoff, he stopped by the tight ends room and left his message in black and white on the chalkboard.

It read: "Continue the tradition."

UGA tight end depth chart
(Career statistics)
Class Player Catches Yards TDs
Sr. Martrez Milner 19 383 2
So. Tripp Chandler 0 0 0
Jr. Coleman Watson 0 0 0

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