In a recent fanpost by cusechosen titled Secondary F-, I posted this comment about our defensive coverage of the opposing teams tight end:
I think most will agree that the tight end pass coverage, whether it be the LB’s responsibility or fault, or the DB/Safety in a zone package, has been deplorable for the last few (7?) years. Last year, if the opposing QB had thrown better passes to their wide open TE in a couple of games, we might have lost another game or two.
Nattylite responded with a comment stating:
Mickey Andrews is convinced there are only 10 players on offense.
This response got me thinking about our past and more recent offensive philosophy regarding our T.E.’s participation in our passing offense.
It seems to me that for the past few years our offensive coordinators have been unaware that the TE is a eligible receiver.
I only went back 10 years while putting these numbers together, but I was surprised and shocked to see the number of passes our T.E.’s have caught during the past 10 season.
Last year (2008), Caz Piurowski (6'7") caught only 8 passes for 83 yds (10.4 avg) and 1 TD, Bo Reliford (6'7") caught one pass for 8 yards, and Josh Dobbie caught one pass for 14 yards. Combined that is a total of 10 passes with an average of 10.5 yards per catch.
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 10 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2008.
Some more recent history of our TE’s involvement in the passing attack.
Charlie Graham- 11 rec for 84 yds for 7.6 avg and 1 TD (dismissed or DNQ for 2008)
Caz- 7 rec. for 55 yds for 7.9 avg
Josh Dobbie- 0 rec (Walk-on who transferred from Army, mostly played special teams)
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 18 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2007.
Brandon Warren- 28 rec for 301yds for 10.8 avg and 1 TD
Caz- 7 rec for 55 yds for 7.9 avg
Charlie Graham- 3 rec for 42 yds for 14.0 avg
THAT IS A HEALTHY TOTAL OF 38 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN 2006.
Matt Henshaw- 21rec for 177 yds for 8.4 avg
Donnie Carter- 6 rec for 35 yds for 5.8 avg
Matt Root- 3 rec for 27 yds for 9.0 avg
Charlie Graham- 0 rec
THAT IS A TOTAL OF 30 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN 2005.
Paul Irons- 8 rec for 89 yds for 11.1 avg
Matt Henshaw- 5 rec for 43 yds for 8.6 avg
Matt Root- 1 rec for 3 yds
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 14 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2004.
Paul Irons- 6 rec for 79 yds for 13.2 avg
Matt Henshaw- 5 rec for 94 yds for 18.8 avg and 2 TD’s
Donnie Carter- 5 rec for 99 yds for 19.8 avg and 1 TD
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 16 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2003.
Patrick Hughes- 5 rec for 50 yds for 10.0 avg
Paul Irons- 1 rec for 1 yds
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 6 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2002.
Carver Donaldson- 3 rec for 26 yds for 8.7 avg
Patrick Hughes- 2 rec for 13 yds for 6.5 avg
Paul Irons- 1 rec for 5 yds and 1 TD
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 6 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2001.
Carver Donaldson- 1 rec for 9 yds
Ryan Sprague- 12 rec for 212 yds for 17.7 avg
Nick Franklin- 3 rec for 40 yds for 13.3 avg
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 16 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 2000.
Even during our NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP YEAR OF 1999, we often ignored the tight end.
Carver Donaldson- 1 rec for 19 yds
Ryan Sprague- 5 rec for 76 yds for 15.2 avg and 1 TD
Patrick Hughes- 1 rec for 13 yds
THAT IS ONLY A TOTAL OF 7 RECEPTIONS BY THE T.E.’S IN ALL OF 1999.
I could go on, but I think I will rely on my memory that this has been the pattern for many, many years.
With the exception of the 2006 and 2005 season, the number of receptions by our tight ends is pathetic. IMO, the 06 and 05 team totals is the number of receptions that our starting TE, in any given year, should be catching just by himself. Of course I am not blaming the players for this lack of production, this is not the TE’s fault. This falls squarely on the shoulders of our offensive coordinators, who have designed and called our offense for the past ____ (fill in your number here) years without regard to the tight end as a downfield receiver option.
Personally, I always hate when someone compares FSU to our hated rivals, the gators. Situations are always different and things are not always comparable. Therefore, I am going to contradict myself and I am going to compare our TE receiving history to last years gators NC (ugh) team for the sake of strengthening my argument.
In 2008 the Gator T.E. Aaron Hernandez was the teams 3rd leading receiver with 34 rec for 381 yds or 11.2 avg and 5 TD’s (2 of those coming against FSU on 4 recs for 61 yds, which brings me back to my original post about our lack of defensive coverage of the opposing T.E.’s, but I digress). They also had another T.E. Casey with 4 rec for 64 yds for a 16.0 avg.
THAT IS A TOTAL OF 38 RECEPTIONS BY THEIR T.E.’S LAST SEASON.
I understand Jimbo is more of a run first oriented coordinator and that is fine and acceptable as long as we have the horses in the backfield. However, I have to think we are missing many opportunities by not calling plays designed for the T.E.’s, just like many other colleges and pro teams have been doing for many years and with much success. Our T.E.’s are huge targets (6'7"), and their involvement in the passing game has been limited to blocking to help protect the passer. I understand this was necessary last season (and in many prior years) due to the inexperience and weaknesses (past tense) of our offensive line. Now that our offensive line has matured and has gained some valuable playing experience, it is time to unleash the big boys on the opposing teams defense, just as they have been doing to us for the past 25 years.
I recall Jimbo making a promise this off-season that our T.E.’s would become a more integral part of our offense in 2009. I certainly hope Jimbo keeps his word, because I have a gut feeling our WR’s are going to need all the help they can get. If he does make the TE at least a small part of our arsenal, this will pose another offensive threat that the defense will have to account for, instead of being able to pin their ears back and rush, or dropping another player into pass coverage.
In conclusion, FSU has had a fairly decent history of T.E.’s making it in the NFL, especially during our dominant years of the 80's and 90's. Here is a list of the FSU T.E.’s who have had successful careers in the NFL along with the year in which they were drafted.
You may recognize some of these names, depending on your age. I think that it is way past the time for FSU to once again to get our T.E.’s involved, accounted for, and respected when we are on offense, and this threat should open up more options in every other offensive area for the Noles.