Commentary

Dawgs wary of Auburn tight end

Notebook: Georgia native Lutzenkirchen has tendency to make plays in red zone

Updated: November 8, 2011, 12:09 PM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Philip Lutzenkirchen's receiving statistics don't exactly jump off the page, but Georgia's defensive players understand they will need to account for the Auburn junior's whereabouts when their teams meet this weekend.

The versatile tight end/H-back might have only 17 catches this season, but he often seems to have the ball in his hands at crunch time.

[+] EnlargePhilip Lutzenkirchen
Butch Dill/Getty ImagesAuburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions.
"Philip is just a really, really good football player," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "He's gotten better every year, and he's very savvy and he understands the game. He's obviously a very talented tight end/H-back. For us, we use him in so many different ways, so that's something that becomes a great tool for us. He can be in a fullback position, he can be in a wideout position, he can be in a tight end or a slot position.

"He's just capable of doing a lot of things for your offense, and we've certainly used him in a lot of different ways since he's been here."

The Marietta, Ga., native, who was Georgia backup quarterback Hutson Mason's teammate at Lassiter High School, has been one of Auburn's most valuable receivers in the last two seasons. Last season, he caught two touchdown passes as Auburn rallied past Georgia, and he hauled in the game-winning score in the Tigers' epic comeback win against hated rival Alabama.

This season, he made only one catch in the Tigers' 16-13 upset win at South Carolina, but that 9-yard grab with 1:38 to play accounted for the game-winning touchdown.

With two touchdown catches in the Tigers' last game, against Ole Miss, he moved into a tie with Emory Blake for the team's receiving touchdown lead, with five.

Lutzenkirchen is somewhat difficult to defend because of the numerous places he might line up, but the Bulldogs know they will need to keep track of where he moves because the Tigers seem to look his way at important times.

"Phil's kind of Mr. Do-It-All," Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. "He's a blocker, can catch the ball. He's kind of that fill-in guy that does everything, and he's always reliable."

No Jenkins at RB
Georgia's coaches toyed with the notion of using John Jenkins as a running back after the 335-pound nose guard lobbied for carries when he was a recruit.

Coach Mark Richt said Monday that Jenkins -- who sometimes played running back in high school -- didn't lobby hard enough to get a guarantee.

"He never said it was a deal breaker like it was to get that single-digit number that he's got right now," Richt said of the player, who wears No. 6. "And so he negotiated the single-digit jersey, but he did not negotiate a guaranteed carrying the ball or at least playing in the backfield. Although I think maybe someday it would be a good idea."

Richt said that day won't be anytime soon, however. He then reiterated the point he has made during the season about the effort Jenkins has put into developing on defense rather than diverting his focus to another position.

"Early in camp, he came to me and said, 'Coach, don't worry about me trying to learn how to play running back. I'm having a hard enough time getting this nose guard thing figured out,' " Richt said. "So he's not in a big rush to do anything other than trying to do his job."

While his plans to play running back might be on hold, Jenkins has made a major impact at nose guard. He recorded a season-high five tackles last week against New Mexico State and also forced a fumble.

Mitchell update
Richt said Monday night that freshman Malcolm Mitchell remains on track to play Saturday against Auburn.

The Bulldogs' leading receiver, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, participated in Monday's workout and will practice in a limited role Tuesday.

"Right now Malcolm is set to play," Richt said on his radio show. "He practiced today. We didn't go very fast. We didn't go full speed. We were just installing some things at about a 75 percent pace or so, but he looks good. & Wednesday, if he does well tomorrow, Wednesday we'll probably let him do everything."

Extra points
Georgia's Nov. 19 home game against Kentucky will kick off at 12:21 p.m. ET and will be televised on the SEC Network and on ESPN3. ... Center Ben Jones on Monday was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for grading out with a team-high 85 percent, along with five intimidation blocks in two quarters of play during the Bulldogs' 63-16 win against New Mexico State. ... CB Brandon Boykin was named to the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll for the sixth time in nine games. He had six tackles, a forced fumble, a 42-yard touchdown catch and three kickoff returns for 52 yards against New Mexico State. The Hornung Award goes to the nation's most versatile player. ... Georgia's captains for the Auburn game will be Jones, Boykin, offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and defensive end Abry Jones.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.