“We’ve got a man who has proven he can go for 150 yards against elite defenses and a few receivers who’ve proven they’ll get open whey they should,” said Preston Dial, an Alabama tight end from 2007 to 2011, Saban’s first 4 seasons there. “Coach Saban’s all the time got a number of plays in there to spotlight the tight end if we want him, but it surely’s fidgeting with the pieces you could have, and we have now guys who can get open.”
But Smart, a Saban protégé who had already emerged as a vocal champion of tight ends — “We would like as many as we will get and we would like to get them the ball,” he said in 2020 — and the offensive coordinator Todd Monken saw their offensive options narrow as Georgia’s injuries mounted.
Bowers became an illustrious, if inexperienced, fix.
Georgia had aggressively pursued Bowers when he was a prospect in Napa, Calif., where he was a decent end, tailback, wide receiver, linebacker and kick returner. As a highschool sophomore, when he was just an inch shy of the 6-foot-4 he’s now, his 40-inch vertical leap and a 40-yard dash time of 4.55 seconds turned heads. Along with Georgia, he said, he had fielded offers from Louisiana State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon and Texas A&M, amongst others.
He announced his commitment in August 2020. In 2021, Georgia said in its preseason media guide that he “should contend for taking part in time as a freshman.” Then injuries made him a star of the complete offense.
“We knew he had the run-after-catch ability — we saw that on tape, they used him within the backfield out of highschool — but he’s got a little bit more range than we thought and he’s continued to develop as a route runner,” Monken said before the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla., where Georgia pounded Michigan, 34-11, to advance to the title game.
Bowers left the semifinal game in the primary half with shoulder trouble. Smart said it might not be a limitation on Monday night. Before his exit, though, Bowers scored a touchdown.
“He’ll play the Z, the Y, the X, the move guy, the down guy,” said Mike Macdonald, Michigan’s defensive coordinator. “They’ll give it to him on reverses, screens.”