Mackey finalists were almost teammates

One Georgia Bulldog is a finalist for the John Mackey Award. Another finalist easily could have been his teammate.

The three finalists for the award, given annually to the top tight end in college football, were announced Monday evening during The Home Depot College Football Awards Nomination Special on ESPN. Included in the group are Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, Georgia's Orson Charles and Clemson's Dwayne Allen, who originally committed to Georgia only to switch to the Tigers on national signing day in 2008 -- a year before Charles signed with the Bulldogs.

When asked how his career might have been affected if not for Allen's signing day flip-flop, Charles said Allen's presence in Athens would not have mattered.

"I feel like if he was here, Georgia still would have had a good chance of getting me," Charles said after Monday's practice. "They probably would have utilized both of us, or if I would have had to wait my turn, I would have had to wait my turn. If we were winning, who am I to argue against that? So it doesn't matter."

Charles leads the Bulldogs with 35 catches along with 435 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The junior's 10 career touchdown catches are tied for the Georgia record for a tight end.

Allen has 45 catches for 536 yards and five touchdowns and Eifert leads all FBS tight ends with 53 catches along with 634 yards and five touchdowns.

Charles said he was pleased to be named a finalist, having perused his fellow semifinalists' statistics and figuring he would be out of the running.

"I was looking at the seven other guys and I was looking at the numbers and I was like, 'There's no way I can get this award,' because their numbers are way better than mine," Charles said. "So I was like, 'I'm just going to put that down and keep practicing hard and leave it up to God.' "

Now that he's a finalist, Charles will be an invited guest at The Home Depot ESPN College Football Awards show, set for Dec. 8 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and televised live on ESPN. The winner of the Mackey Award will be announced live on the event's Red Carpet Show at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

But before Charles, a Tampa, Fla., native, can focus on a trip to his home state, he and his teammates have some business to take care of -- beginning with this weekend's visit to Georgia Tech.

He said Georgia Tech is the most hated rival for most of his Georgia-native teammates. Their coaches have already done their best to fan the flames of that dislike by telling them that the Yellow Jackets have a urinal emblazoned with a UGA logo in their football building.

True or not, it seems to be having the intended effect.

"The coaches do a good job of picking up things to get us mad," Charles said. "So I'm kind of getting riled up right now, but I've got to calm myself down and hold it in before Saturday."