By Dave McMahon and Patrick Garbin
A year ago, we delivered our “Counting the Days” series—an example. This summer, we explore a topic that has been debated on The Dawgvent for years and years. Twice a week leading into fall camp, we will post the UGA’s Mount Rushmore of… series, whereby we each present our opinion of the top four Bulldogs representing each positional unit. Whether statistics, big plays, championships won, and/or something else, we have our reasons why these quartets of Bulldogs have been chosen.
Do you agree with today’s Mount Rushmore of UGA Tight Ends? Who would you put on your list?
Dave McMahon—Twitter @dave_mc_stats
Larry Brown (1995-98): There are many great tight ends to choose from, but a huge favorite for many Dawg fans, including myself, was Larry Brown. Brown didn’t put up the most amazing numbers, but he was very important for the Bulldogs. He was an excellent blocker, and had 80 receptions for 1,077 yards and six touchdowns in four seasons. Like I said, he did not have amazing numbers, but was named second team All-SEC twice. The fans got to love him even more since he was a powerhouse for the Georgia basketball team, as well. Brown played for five head coaches during his time as a Bulldog: Ray Goff and Jim Donnan in football, Hugh Durham, Tubby Smith and Ron Jirsa in basketball.
Randy McMichael (1999-2001): Randy McMichael played three seasons for Georgia under both Jim Donnan and Mark Richt. He finished his Bulldog career with 90 receptions for 1,213 yards and five touchdowns. McMichael added another touchdown reception in the 2000 Outback Bowl against Purdue, when bowl stats weren’t recognized for season totals, which might have been his biggest touchdown of them all. The Bulldogs trailed Drew Brees and the Boilermakers 25-0 midway through the second quarter before the Dawgs rallied. Trailing by seven points with just over a minute left, Quincy Carter scrambled and threw across his body, whereby McMichael caught a deflected pass in double coverage, setting up the tying extra point and the eventual win. Statistically, his best two games came against Georgia Tech (unfortunately, they were both losses in 1999 and 2000) as he had a combined 19 catches for 299 yards. McMichael earned Freshman All-SEC honors in 1999, as well as All-SEC recognition in 2001.
Ben Watson (2001-03): After playing in 1999 for the Duke Blue Devils, Ben Watson transferred to Georgia where he was an important piece for Mark Richt’s early Bulldog teams. Like Larry Brown, Watson did not have the most glamorous stats: 65 receptions for 852 yards and six scores in three seasons with the Dawgs. He did have a touchdown catch in both SEC Championships that he played in—2002 and 2003—and was named to the All-SEC second team his senior season. In the NFL, Watson played on a Super Bowl winner, and has one of the most memorable plays in pro football, hustling the length of the field to catch one of the fastest players in football, (another Dawg) Champ Bailey, preventing him from scoring. Watson spoke up on many important issues while he was in the NFL, and after leaving the sport. What’s more, I have him on my list in association with carvings of great U.S. Presidents because I believe Ben Watson would make a great president himself. He is definitely a Damn Good Dawg!
Orson Charles (2009-11): Orson Charles followed his high school teammate Aaron Murray from Tampa, Florida, to Athens, Georgia. Playing three seasons for Georgia, Charles totaled 94 receptions for 1,370 yards and 10 touchdowns. In a high-scoring affair at Arkansas in 2009, the Bulldogs trailed by one point late in the third quarter, when Charles broke free and caught a career-long 44-yard touchdown, and the Dawgs never looked back, cruising to a 52-41 victory. He twice earned All-SEC honors, including once as a first-teamer. Charles was very athletic, and the sure-handed receiver always seemed to get open. An instant involving Charles that Georgia fans may remember even more so than him on the field was during a recruiting visit to Gainesville, Florida. As he was posing for a picture, he accidentally knocked over a Florida national championship trophy. I guess just for that reason alone, he is also a Damn Good Dawg!
Patrick Garbin—Twitter @PatrickGarbin
Vernon “Catfish” Smith (1929-1931): Like I mentioned last week when placing Tom Nash as one of my top four defensive ends/OLBs, there were simply ends back in the day; therefore, it can be determined if old-school ends were more so offensive or defensive players. And, although a standout defender, “Catfish” Smith was known throughout the country for his offensive prowess. The player responsible for all 15 points scored in the Bulldogs’ 15-0 victory over Yale in the dedication of Sanford Stadium, Smith led Georgia in scoring as a mere sophomore in 1929 with 32 points. By his junior season, it was said, “the big Georgia end is the fire-brand of the team’s competitive spirit,” and by his senior campaign, opponents were literally practicing with tackling dummies with Smith’s name on them. For his three-season career, Georgia’s second consensus All-American (1931), the third to be named first-team all-conference for three seasons, and the fourth Bulldog player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame scored seven touchdowns, converted 31 PATs, and scored two safeties for 77 points.
George Poschner (1940-1942): Recognized as a tough, “gridiron gambler,” George Poschner was distinguished in 1942 as “the most colorful end to play for Georgia since Catfish Smith.” In three seasons from 1940-1942, he scored 10 touchdowns and twice earned All-SEC honors. As a senior, Poschner was chosen by one NCAA-recognized selector as a First Team All-American, and by four others as a second-teamer. That same season, he was ninth in the nation in receiving with 24 catches for 493 yards and scored six touchdowns. More proof of Poschner’s toughness: Serving his country in the Battle of the Bulge of World War II, he was severely injured by machine-gun fire, including being shot in the head, and lay wounded in a frozen Belgian field for four days. As a consequence of his injuries, he lost both legs, part of a hand, and had two plates implanted in his head. Poschner’s response when later asked about his injuries: “Yeah, I’ve got two plates in my head but, thank goodness, I still have my own teeth.” He received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, and Distinguished Service Cross for his service, and lived to be 85 years old.
Richard Appleby (1973-1975): A second-teamer as a junior in 1974, Richard Appleby was not only the first Georgia tight end to earn All-SEC honors, but there wouldn’t be another all-conference Bulldog tight end until 1983 (Clarence Kay). Appleby was also recognized as honorable mention All-SEC in 1973 and 1975. I contend he is Georgia’s greatest “go-to” tight end of all time. Consider that beginning approximately 50 years ago, or when the tight end position was fully established at Georgia, nine times a tight end has led the Bulldogs in annual receiving: six times by six different players, and three times by Appleby—for each of his three seasons on the varsity. In addition, although Appleby’s 48 career receptions (for almost a 19-yard average!) seem low by today’s standards, they were 28 percent of his teams’ total from 1973-1975. In comparison, Georgia’s all-time leading receiver among tight ends, Shannon Mitchell (1990-1993), was on the receiving end of 13 percent of his teams’ receptions. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Georgia tight end who caught a percentage of team completions nearing 20 percent for his career. What’s more, on the occasional end-around, Appleby could also run, averaging nearly 10 yards per rush for his career, and, of course, he could throw too, passing for one of the greatest touchdowns in Georgia football history (unedited, uninterrupted version of Appleby-to-Washington):
Leonard Pope (2003-2005): Catching just one pass as a true freshman in 2003, Leonard Pope essentially played just two seasons at the University of Georgia—but what a two-season stint it was! Recognized as First Team All-SEC in 2004 and 2005, the mammoth 6-foot-7, 255-pounder is the only Bulldog tight end ever to be named first-team all-conference for two seasons. As a sophomore and junior combined (before leaving early for the pros), Pope caught 64 passes for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns. No tight end in Georgia history has totaled as many receiving yards or touchdowns in a two-year period.
In a couple of days, we will reveal our next in the UGA’s Mount Rushmore of… series. Until then, again, do you agree with today’s list? Who would you put on your Mount Rushmore of UGA Tight Ends?