July 21, 2013

Summer Questions #3: TE Concerns?

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Summer Questions Series No. 3: What Is Going On At Tight End?

With the way the modern college football offense has evolved in recent years, the tight end position has become one where teams can really take advantage of some mismatches. Perhaps the team to make best use of the tight ends over the last few years is Stanford, who has used guys as devastating blockers as well as terrific receivers, depending on the skill set. On the other end of the spectrum is Virginia Tech, who seemingly hasn't had a big-time threat at tight end in years. Will it change in 2013? That's the question we ask today.

First, let's define big-time. A big-time threat is someone defenses have to keep an eye on. A big-time threat is someone the Hokies would go to on key plays, in the red zone, and any opportunity in between. You could argue the Hokies have had some decent tight ends over the last few years, but someone who represents the fourth or fifth option in the receiving game isn't someone I consider "big-time."

Now, let's take a look at the tight end production of the last five years:

2007 1. Sam Wheeler - 15 catches, 211 yards, 1 touchdown 2. Greg Boone - 11 catches, 167 yards, 0 touchdowns

2008 1. Greg Boone - 22 catches, 278 yards, 2 touchdowns 2. Andre Smith - 10 catches, 129 yards, 1 touchdown)

2009 1. Greg Boone - 7 catches, 75 yards, 0 touchdowns 2. Andre Smith - 3 catches, 27 yards, 1 touchdown

2010 1. Andre Smith - 20 catches, 195 yards, 5 touchdowns 2. Randall Dunn - 1 catch, yards

2011 1. Chris Drager - 15 catches, 201 yards, 2 touchdowns 2. Eric Martin - 3 catches, 22 yards

2012 1. Ryan Malleck - 17 catches, 174 yards, 0 touchdowns 2. Randall Dunn - 12 catches, 128 yards, 3 touchdowns

While there have been some pretty solid seasons put together by tight ends (2010 Andre Smith and 2008 Greg Boone), there have been some pretty quiet seasons as well (2009 Greg Boone, 2011 Chis Drager). I would argue there hasn't been a big-time option at tight end since Jeff King in 2006.

Malleck was effective as a limited option in 2012 and is returning for his junior season as the top tight end on the depth chart. Other than him, the Hokies have converted defensive ends Duan Perez-Means and Zack McCray, as well as redshirt sophomore Darius Redman.

To say the situation is clouded at best is accurate. Malleck has the experience and has proven to be serviceable, but is he the big-time threat that could take this offense to the next level is the real question.

Perez-Means and McCray seem to have the physical tools, but as former defensive ends, have they picked up the position enough to make a move on Malleck's top spot?

As the Hokies enter a season with some serious question marks at wide receiver, a big-time tight end would have been an ideal target for quarterback Logan Thomas to rely on in big situations. However, as things stand, that key guy is as likely to be wide receiver Demitri Knowles as it is Malleck.

With so many shifting parts on offense this offseason, the issues at tight end have gone overlooked. However, if the Hokies wish to reach their full offensive potential, one needs to step up and emerge as a big-time, reliable option for Thomas.

Is it Malleck? Is it McCray? Is it Perez-Means? My money is on Malleck, but they will fight for it for a few weeks beginning in early August.


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