New look out­look for Nauta

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - By Seth Emer­son

ATHENS — The term Isaac Nauta used to de­scribe the de­ci­sion was “pure im­pulse.” The foot­ball sea­son was just get­ting un­der­way, and the Ge­or­gia tight end de­cided to dye his hair blond. So blond it’s al­most white.

“There’s so much stress in this life you never know when my hair is go­ing to go,” Nauta said. “So I want to do some­thing with it while I can.”

Some­one asked Nauta what his mom thought about it.

“She did it,” Nauta said. “She’s a for­mer hair­styl­ist. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it.”

The hairdo earned pos­i­tive re­views from team­mates.

“It matches his per­son­al­ity,” se­nior re­ceiver Javon Wims said. “He’s a pea­cock, got to let him fly.”

But about that … the pea­cock

hasn’t quite taken flight. That only tells part of the story, he in­sists.

A pre­sea­son All-SEC pick, Nauta is on pace to fin­ish well be­low his

fresh­man stats (29 catches for 361 yards). Mid­way through the reg­u­lar sea­son, he only has five catches for 77 yards and one touch­down.

Nauta sees that more a prod­uct of Ge­or­gia’s of­fense, and in a good way.

“We re­ally haven’t had to pass it a whole lot, be­cause we’ve got a line that’s been play­ing real phys­i­cal, and we’ve got Sony (Michel), Nick (Chubb), D’An­dre (Swift), Eli­jah (Holy­field), these guys are run­ning the ball like crazy,” Nauta said. “That switches it up a lit­tle bit.

“But this is also the SEC and we know that we’re go­ing to have to throw it at some point. So we’re grind­ing at prac­tice, and we’re mak­ing sure we’re get­ting those reps so we’re pre­pared to throw it when we need to.”

Nauta’s blend of size (6-foot-4, 246 pounds) and ath­leti­cism will make him an invit­ing tar­get if and when Ge­or­gia’s pass­ing game opens up. He showed that against Mis­sis­sippi State, get­ting open down the seam for a 41-yard catc­hand-run touch­down. It was a re­minder of some of his big mo­ments last year.

But he has just 36 yards the rest of the sea­son.

“I feel like I’ve been good get­ting open,” said Nauta, who has seen more man cov­er­age and dou­ble-teams this sea­son. “But re­ally the big­gest thing is we’re tak­ing shots, and guys are mak­ing plays, and it seems like some­times we score three plays into a drive, and then we run it down the field on the next drive. So it’s all about op­por­tu­ni­ties, and when they come your way you’ve got to make them.”

That doesn’t mean Nauta has just been sit­ting around. He’s been very in­volved in the of­fense as a blocker — and de­riv­ing en­joy­ment out of it. He re­called putting a Notre Dame de­fender on his back at one point.

While the re­ceiv­ing stats aren’t there com­pared to last year, in a way this sea­son has been more suc­cess­ful as far as be­ing an over­all tight end. There have been fewer mis­takes, fewer missed as­sign­ments, and more phys­i­cal play over­all.

“It’s a blast when you do a pan­cake block and you look up and see Chubb tak­ing it to the house,” Nauta said. “Run­ning the ball is a very re­ward­ing deal be­cause you work so hard on it, and it’s so phys­i­cal that when it breaks your way it’s a great feel­ing.”

JEFF SENTELL / DAWGNA­TION

Tight end Isaac Nauta, with his hair now blond, is off last sea­son’s pace sta­tis­ti­cally, but he says part of the rea­son has been the Bull­dogs’ ef­fec­tive­ness run­ning the ball.

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