|Arthur Lynch: Beast|
How much do the TEs factor into the offense? Before looking at last year's stats, I'd have said the TE was the most wastefully used position on offense. We had Orson Charles, who was the third TE taken in the draft (and might have been taken 1st or 2nd were it not for other reasons). We had a passing offense that is geared towards 1-5 down field shots per game with plenty of three step drop quick passes. We had another tight end in Aron White who was as clutch a short pass receiver as we have had in at least three years. Yet, it felt like we never seemed to have a breakout performance by a TE.
Well, stats don't lie, so I was wrong. Orson and White both had good years for TEs. Charles was the top TE in the SEC, with a shade over 3 catches a game (for reference, the conference leader was Da'Rick Rogers with 5.6). Aron White had 4 TD on 9 catches. So, why did it feel like we underutilized the TEs in 2011. If we get 50+ catches, 650+ yds receiving, and 9+ TDs from the TEs this season, I'll be ecstatic. Won't you?
So were my feelings about the tight end possition a product of expectations?
This year, we have Artie Lynch and Jay Rome. Both offer much different skill sets. Both are bigger than Orson and White. Taller and body size wise. While Rome is a bit quicker than Artie, Artie's experience and rapport with Murray (they are room mates) will be huge. Both offer the ability to get higher than LBs or use thier body size to box out smaller DBs. Neither is going to run away from a defensive back or line backer, but anyone covering them will need to commit to either covering the front passing lane (think pass into their chest or hands) or the back side shoulder and take their chances. With their sizes, it'll be just about impossible, without help, to cover all possible passes that could be thrown to them.
Putting aside the receiving threat and match up issues they bring there, both Rome and Lynch offer better blocking options in running sets than White and Charles. Both of the guys last year were good at blocking; Lynch and Rome should be great. I'd look for a number of plays where the TE basically quick chucks a rusher on play action, pushing him out of his rushing lane, then releases into the flat or in the dead zone behind the line, with Murray finding him there as a first, second or third option.
We saw that play ran a lot in Boise State to Charles. The difference is Orson's speed and ability to get open was better utilized by sending him into the defensive back field and creating match up issues for LBs (due to speed) and DBs (due to size). With Lynch and Rome, their size and ability to block out with their bodies will be key.
One last thing. With all the talk about recruiting and rankings, it is important to note that Artie Lynch was a four star and was the second rated TE in the 2009 class. Number one was Logan Thomas, who will be the starting QB for Virginia Tech this season. Number three was Philip Lutzenkirchen. Rome was the number four TE in the nation and is a four star as well. Now, they have to go prove those rankings on the field, but both offer the talent to be all conference performers.
I keep thinking about that 50 reception, 650 yard, 10 TD metric. If we get to those numbers for the tight ends in 2012, we'll be pretty happy with them, right?