ATHENS, Ga. --- As Florida State's recruiting coordinator, John Lilly could attract elite talent by talking up the Seminoles' championship tradition and its history of sending players to the professional ranks. Getting top-flight tight ends to Tallahassee to play the position that Lilly coached from 1998-2007 was a harder sell.
"The toughest thing that we fought at Florida State was the perception that we never used them," said Lilly. "It made it very difficult to go out and recruit them."
Lilly shouldn't have that problem at his new job at Georgia, which has established itself as a program that produces NFL tight ends.
Since coach Mark Richt arrived, Georgia tight ends Randy McMichael, Ben Watson, Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner were NFL Draft picks.
Senior Tripp Chandler, the Bulldogs third leading receiver last year with 21 catches, is on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award for the nation's top tight end.
"I look at it as a tremendous responsibility," said Lilly, who coached at Florida State with Richt, the Seminoles offensive coordinator from 1994-2000. "People talk about pressure. I've always felt like pressure is something you put on yourself. That's one of the things that was so exciting about coming here ... that expectations at that position are so high."
That wasn't the case at Florida State, where the last tight end drafted was Lonnie Johnson in 1994.
"We haven't featured the tight end much," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "Mark has always featured the tight end at Georgia. We're beginning to do that more here now, too."
"A lot of the plays and the concepts are the same," Richt said. "We just would call more plays here where the tight end is primary."
Florida State ran plenty of four wide receiver sets. At Georgia, the Bulldogs run four-receiver route concepts, Richt said, but the tight end is one of those four receivers. The result: A Georgia tight end has been one of the top three pass catchers in five of the past six seasons under Richt.
"(Lilly) knew about our tradition of tight ends," Chandler said. "With coaching at Florida State, he's coached great athletes. That was something that he kind of passed along to us. He mentioned something about the ACC and me and Bruce (Figgins) jumped on him. 'Hey, coach, you're playing in the SEC now.' "