If you missed a previous recap, here they are:
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
- Eric Martin, 6-2, 264, Sr. OR
- Randall Dunn, 6-2, 244, Sr. OR
- Ryan Malleck, 6-4, 250, So.
- George George, 6-4, 264, Sr.
- Duan Perez-Means, 6-4, 235, So.
- Fuller Hoepner, 6-2, 227, So.
- Darius Redman, 6-3, 257, rFr.
- Dakota Jackson, 6-3, 250, Fr.
Virginia Tech had a variety pack at tight end this spring. Martin was the big-bodied blocker. Dunn was the receiving option. And Malleck, the youngest of that group, was a blend of the two. How exactly that plays out in 2012 remains to be seen, but it seems like the Hokies can give a different look whenever they feel like it. Dunn had one particularly strong scrimmage, catching two passes for 31 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He went up to catch at least one of them, out-leaping a defender. If Tech can get him in matchups against defensive backs, that might be a pairing to exploit. Redman, one of the younger players of the group, supposedly came on strong near the end of spring drills.
The Hokies don’t appear to have that one do-it-all tight end. Some are better at receiving. Some are better at blocking. But finding one that can do both and do them well is the hard part (granted, that’s the situation for a lot of teams looking for a complete tight end). Obviously the goal in August will be to make the blockers more of a threat in the passing game and the receiving tight ends more proficient at blocking, so as not to tip off what kind of play you’re running. Perez-Means made the switch to tight end this offseason to get back to his more natural position, but we didn’t hear a whole lot from him this spring.
Jackson is the only tight end in the freshman class. He’s a big one, already at 250 pounds and bound to get bigger. Tech recruiting director Jim Cavanaugh said he sees a lot of Jeff King in Jackson. That’s high praise. Given the number of bodies at tight end, you’d figure Jackson is in line for a redshirt year.
Dunn showed enough in that one scrimmage to make you think he could be a threat in the passing game. Tech hasn’t had a real big pass-catching tight end in a while. But Dunn is a converted wide receiver, so he has those skills. He’s quick off the line and shows a presence when the ball is in the air. He’s practically an H-back. If defenses have to worry about a tight end in the passing game, it’ll open things up in other areas.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Obviously, it’s the starting spot. Or, rather, how the Hokies plan to rotate players in that spot. Martin is the oldest and has been described by coaches as dependable. That counts for a lot the way Virginia Tech runs its offense. He’s not flashy but gets the job done. But if the Hokies are looking for more of a pass-catching threat, Dunn is their guy. And Malleck seems to be the future at the position, so it will be interesting to see how he gets used this year.
THEY SAID IT
“Randall can be a valuable asset to us. He’s fast, he runs good routes from the tight end position. We can get him matched up on people. At times he’s our best matchup when they’re playing man coverage. … He can be a very valuable part of our offense on a situational basis. He’s not a guy who’s going to line up and knock somebody off the ball. He can block but he’s not a masher.” — quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O’Cain
1 – Times in the last eight years that the Hokies’ top tight end didn’t have at least 13 catches and at least 195 receiving yards (Greg Boone had 7 catches for 75 yards in 2009).
THE END OF THE DAY
While Tech’s tight ends never have huge roles in the offense, it’s still a position the Hokies have used in moderation over the years. Andre Smith had five touchdown catches in 2010. Boone had 278 receiving yards in 2008. And King had 51 catches for 596 yards and 10 touchdowns from 2004-05. So even if it’s not a featured position, it still has its moments. The Hokies seem to have a diverse skill set here this year and it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff adapts to that. They can have the usual power blocking guy they usually use with Martin. But if Dunn can develop into a reliable receiving threat, it makes the offense that much tougher to defend.