Dynamic Role Next for White

ATHENS – Aron White has an image problem. Since arriving at Georgia as a highly touted prospect, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound redshirt sophomore has always looked more like a pass catcher than a true tight end.

Through five games this season, he has seen minimal playing time.

Even in his hometown of Columbia, Missouri he doesn't get a lot of publicity. White could make the first start of his career against Tennessee on Saturday, but that's hardly front-page news back home when the Missouri Tigers are the No. 3 team in the nation.

"In the past two days, a couple of people have hit me up, but before that, I hadn't really heard much," White said. "I don't think the word had really gotten down there yet, but the Tigers kind of have the buzz down there right now. They're not too worried about Georgia."

Despite being typecast as the undersized tight end, White will get his shot at a more dynamic role during the next few weeks as he steps in for injured starter Tripp Chandler.

Chandler injured his shoulder against Alabama and won't return for at least a few weeks, head coach Mark Richt said. White finished the game against the Crimson Tide, and is the projected starter on Georgia's depth chart this week.

"Tripp is a tremendous player, and he's got really be shoes to fill, so for me to do my part, I needed to step my game up," White said. "I didn't think I was performing at a level that deserved to be a starter, so I needed to up my game a level if I was going to be the starter."

White has worked tirelessly in the weight room during the offseason to put on weight so he better fits the image of the typical tight end. Since Chandler's injury, however, he's taken that same enthusiasm to the practice field. White's energy is up, Richt said, his focus has been sharp and – most importantly for him – he's been blocking with authority.

"I'm definitely not the biggest guy out there, so they're not looking for me to knock anybody off the ball or anything like that," White said. "But I think I've definitely been making more plays in the blocking game, and being a little more aggressive and dominant."

Despite his strong week on the practice field, White is not guaranteed the start against Tennessee. Bruce Figgins, who had been No. 2 on the team's depth chart, is battling a shoulder injury that will require surgery, but just when that procedure happens remains up in the air.

Figgins said he plans to play Saturday and has practiced this week wearing a number of pads, slings and harnesses to protect his injured shoulder. He said he hasn't had any significant pain even during blocking drills.

"I went live on all my drills inside against the defensive line and linebackers, and I went full go on every drill," Figgins said. "No problems. Didn't miss a rep or have to see any trainers, nothing like that."

Richt said there was no decision on who would start against Tennessee, but with Figgins' injury, White will see plenty of playing time, whether or not he's in the starting lineup. More over, Figgins is eligible for a medical redshirt if he doesn't play beyond this week's game, so White will likely take sole control of the job for the foreseeable future.

It's not an opportunity White was expecting, but his game plan has always been to do the unexpected.

After all, when people so often judge his ability based on his appearance, White is forced to defy convention. That's what he hopes the next few games will allow him to do – prove the doubters wrong and give fans their first look at the next great Georgia tight end.

"It's definitely something I want to show people that I can do," White said. "Now that I have a chance to get more reps in the game, hopefully I can open some eyes and people will stop thinking of me as a hybrid and think of me as a tight end."

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