Georgia State football tight end, Ari Werts, is in his junior season with the Panthers program and is looking to make strides this year as a starter.
With this being Werts’ first opportunity to be the lead man at the tight end position, his focus is solely on improving his blocking techniques as well continuing to sharpen his fundamentals.
Last year, Werts was second on the depth chart behind senior tight end Keith Rucker, who was considered to be one of the offensive captains for the Panthers and managed to snag 21 receptions for 329 yards. He also tied for second on the team with three touchdowns.
Werts is a big-body target for quarterback Conner Manning and can very well help this offense develop some continuity. With athleticism and sure hands, Werts is the third consecutive Georgia State tight end to make the John Mackey Award watch list.
Werts talked to The Signal about the upcoming season and how he plans to improve his all-around game this year.
Last year you got the opportunity to learn behind Keith Rucker, who was a productive tight end during his time at Georgia State, what have you learned from Rucker that you can implement into your game this year?
Werts: I learned good blocking techniques, as well as looking the ball in when I catch passes — as well as just competing. When Keith was here, he made me compete. When Joel was here, he made me compete as well. It just gave me the competitive nature to just want to be successful out here.
Although you have one more year of eligibility, do you feel as if you’re behind in regards to stats — given you haven’t had much playing time?
Werts: I actually don’t. I just feel like I leave it all in God’s hands, and all of it is going to work out for itself. I feel like what I have now is going to be good, but I know this season coming up it will be even better. Just keep progressing, that’s my goal, to keep progressing.
What is the biggest improvement that you’ve made to your overall game this offseason?
Werts: Hands down, blocking! I’ve got way more physical. I just use my hands better when it comes to blocking, and I’ve learned to finish blocks.
Has former Panther wide receiver Robert Davis given you any advice in regards to becoming a better receiving tight end?
Werts: Rob gave me a lot of tips. When I first got here, Rob told me I had the best hands on the team, even when he was here. So, that just gave me motivation just to keep working hard and keep striving just to get my hands better each and every day. Me and Rob used to do ball competitions where it comes to jug-machines — we’ll see who catches the most balls, whoever drops the most got laps or something like that. So it’s always competitive out here.
What would it mean to you to win the John Mackey Award?
Werts: Ah, man that’s everything! That’s a goal that I want to accomplish, but if I don’t, I’m gonna continue to work hard regardless.
How has the team responded to first-year head coach Shawn Elliott?
Werts: We all love him. He’s making us work hard. We’re just out here grinding each and every day. No days off to the point where he’s just getting us mentally stronger than we were last year. I know that for a fact.
What are three personal goals you have for yourself this year?
Werts: I don’t have any personal goals at all. I have team goals which I want us to just stick together and play as a team and accomplish goals as far as winning bowl games and winning the Sun Belt championship. But as far as my goals, I don’t have any at all – I’m a team player.