As Georgia Bulldogs’ tight end John FitzPatrick heads into the 2020 season, he is looking to play a bigger part in the offense than in previous years. He’s also looking to improve his quality of play, and help the team in any way possible as Georgia prepares for their season opener against Arkansas next Saturday.
Last season, FitzPatrick split reps with seniors Charlie Woerner and Eli Wolf. Now, he has the chance to make an even bigger impact as graduate transfer tight end Tre McKitty is possibly out due to an injury. During the offseason,
FitzPatrick said he’s been working on his overall strength and speed. Currently, he thinks he’s in the best shape possible thanks to strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair.
“Coach (Scott) Sinclair has helped me a ton,” FitzPatrick said. “(On the) scout team my redshirt year and last year, (I kept) working in the weight room. I feel strong. I’ve gained more weight. I feel fast. I’m excited to play.”
In the past, Georgia hasn’t had much production out of the tight end position mainly because they didn’t receive a lot of targets. Between Woerner, Wolf and Fitzpatrick, the trio combined for 294 yards receiving and two touchdowns in 2019. FitzPatrick himself only had one catch for 22 yards against Murray State; which happens to be his only reception in his collegiate carrer.
Hopefully those numbers will increase exponentially in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken‘s system. When Monken was the play-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018, his style of offense favored throwing to the tight ends quite a bit. Maybe those targets will increase if FitzPatrick and the rest of the tight ends prove their worth over the course of the season.
Regardless, FitzPatrick says he will do anything to help the team win games.
“I would say that we are prepared for whatever coach Monken calls,” FitzPatrick said. “He was hired to call the plays, and if he calls a pass for us, we’re going to go make a play. If he calls the run blocks for us, we’re going to go make those blocks. At the end of the day, we just want to win games and take it game by game.”
The former Marist High School standout also commented on how McKitty has helped him improve his game since arriving in Athens this past summer.
“Certain tips he’s taught me are in some route-running,” FitzPatrick said. “At the tops of my routes, working my hands and coming out of my breaks, certain footwork like that. Tre’ and I work on that; we’ll talk about that. I’ll run a route and we’ll talk about it after—‘What could you have done better? What coverage did you see?’ Stuff like that. It goes back to those smaller details that you keep looking at and to refine your game and perfect it.”
Georgia didn’t have spring practice and has had a limited practice schedule due to COVID-19. FitzPatrick’s window to get better was surely stunted like the rest of the team, but he explained that practice has been where his skill set has improved the most.
“I would say it starts at practice,” FitzPatrick said. “At practice, working on the little things in between periods—jogging to the next period, finishing drills and what not—doing these little things that are going to translate onto the field so that we can play at our highest level.”
With McKitty questionable, FitzPatrick should be the next man up at the tight end position. Although, he will have to fend off former five-star and freshman Darnell Washington for playing time. But the 6-foot-7, 254-pound redshirt seems to have all the tools to do so.
Washington, who’s a tad bigger taller and heavier than FitzPatrick, has earned a unique nickname by his teammates already.
“The guys on offense are calling Darnell Washington ‘The Big O’ and I didn’t understand why, and then I realized it was about the number he was wearing,” said head coach Kirby Smart a few weeks ago.
Still, FitzPatrick is just excited to play.
“We’re excited to play,” FitzPatrick said. “It’s been a long time coming, going through a long minicamp and then going through a month long or so of camp. We’ve played against our defense so many times. I’m excited to play Arkansas and get this thing going.”