Florida State Seminoles Season Preview 2010: Tight Ends

Offensive Coordinator & TE Coach James Coley

This is fourth in a multi-part preview series covering the position groups as Florida State starts the 2010 season. FSU returns 19 of the 22 players from its record-setting 2009 offense and the attack again figures to be one of the best in the country.  Today we'll be looking at the tight ends. 

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebackers | Defensive Backs 

The tight ends are coached by James Coley, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator.  While most believe that promotion is simply for title and cash (Fisher will still run the show), Coley is a good offensive mind in his own right.  He will do much of the legwork for the offensive gameplan.  Coley will retain his Tight End coach position as his role as offensive coordinator will be more geared to game  planning and scouting.  Coley continues to be Fisher's "eye in the sky", giving Coach Fisher the overhead view of what a defense is doing.  He worked for Saban with the Miami Dolphins, has previously been an offensive coordinator at FIU, and is a beast of a recruiter.

And it is not easy to recruit tight ends to Florida State.  The Noles have rarely had productive tight ends, largely because their talent base includes a ridiculous amount of star receivers.  But FSU is looking to utilize the tight end a lot more often.  FSU is preaching this on the recruiting trail and it produced results in the most recent class as FSU pulled in the very athletic Will Tye from Connecticut and 6'6" Tank Sessions from outside of Atlanta. 

FSU loses Senior Caz Piurowski.  Caz was playing great before he injured his leg against Georgia Tech.  He caught 13 balls for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 6 games.  In his absence, Beau Reliford was pressed into duty.  In truth, Reliford was probably not ready for the starting role.  Beau played part of one season of high school football, and the 6'6" 241 lb (at the time) sophomore was pretty much still a basketball player when he got to Florida State.  And he struggled early.  FSU was the top red zone offense in the conference this year by a large margin (more points per red zone trip than any other team), but when it failed it was usually because of the blocking of non-offensive line players (tight ends), or because the backs chose the wrong hole (see the running backs preview).  FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett snapped at reporters when asked about his offensive line being the cause of a missed goal line opportunity, inferring that coach Bowden (who had trashed Trickett's guys) should watch the tape.  And Trickett was right.  His guys did not blow the blocks on the goal line.  It was the secondary blockers.  With a new running backs coach and another year of maturity from the tight ends, that situation should improve.

The Starter

Beau Reliford is the starter.  He whiffed on some blocks early and looked really raw.  And when 6'6" makes a mistake the entire stadium can see it.  Beau really came on, however, at the end of the season.  His blocking was much improved against Wake Forest, Maryland and West Virginia in the bowl game.  Beau didn't hit a ceiling because he had so much to learn.  There was an incredible amount of football that Beau had not played.  He's good athlete with a high ceiling.  Reliford caught 11 balls for 89 yards and 2 TDs last year, almost all coming in the final 6 games (after Piurowski went down Beau grabbed 9 for 79). 

In the Spring I wrote:

He needs to continue to add functional size, but must maintain his flexibility.  I worry about a guy who is 6'6" if he gets to 270 lbs, but there's no reason to think Reliford can't play at 250 lbs this coming season.  He has to continue to get better at the mental parts of the game.  He doesn't always run the right route of make the correct coverage adjustment.  His route running needs to continue to improve.  He has to continue getting better at blocking.  Reliford isn't a natural ball catcher and likely won't ever be great, but he can become above average.  Finally, because he isn't being seriously pushed by anyone, he must be self motivated. 

By all accounts Reliford had a good Spring.  He has packed on roughly 12 pounds of muscle and is now a much more physically impressive 255 lbs (roughly).  That should help with his blocking.  Reliford is a player that, because of his lack of experience at any level, should continue to improve each year.  That said, he is not a special player.  He can eventually be good but as of now Reliford is an average tight end.  He hasn't made any special grabs yet  and will have to show that he will make fewer mental mistakes.  And it's unknown whether he will ever become a natural pass catcher.  

Inside I'll preview the other 4 tight ends on Florida State's roster.



Related:  What is an h-back?

Note:  this year, because of personnel, FSU will use more fullbacks than H-backs.  

Up next is Jabarris Little.  The 6'4" 240 lb H-Back was a highly rated 4* prospect out of Tallahassee Lincoln HS.  Just so you know, think of an H-Back as a smaller, more versatile tight end who often goes in motion.  FSU prefers to use H-Backs over fullbacks in its offense.   He is a great example of why it is so important to work as hard as possible when healthy, because you never know when you might get hurt.  Little's injury put him behind schedule.  He should be 250 lbs and a beast catching the ball and blocking.  But he is not.  I've heard he has improved his work ethic since the injury.  Similar to Reliford, he needs to work on both the mental and physical parts of his game.  At this point, he realistically could be an average player for FSU this year, which would be fine for this offense given his limited role.   I don't expect much out of Little and he is one of roughly 13 guys who are fighting for a spot on the 2011 roster.  

Also on the roster is Matt Dunham.  This is not a joke.  Dunham is still on the team.  He is the only player who will be the same age as me.  Dunham was a very highly rated running back coming out of Georgia.  He broke all of Herschel Walker's records, though did it in a tiny classification.  A member of the 2005 recruiting class, Dunham has had multiple stops at Junior College but came back last year.  He's 6'2" and played last season at a wildly out of shape 255 lbs.  I've seen some recent pictures of him and he looks to be in better shape.  I would guess he is about the same weight but with less body fat and more muscle.  And he can be a complimentary blocking h-back this season, perhaps, but it's unlikely.  That's a lot more than I could say for him last season when he was just too slow, rusty, and out of shape to have the necessary footwork to block.  I didn't expect him to still be around when he came back last season but he is still here and at the very least that says something about his willingness to endure some intense conditioning.  At the very least Dunham is earning APR points (not AARP) for FSU.  

Young Guys

As I mentioned in the lead, FSU did bring in two tight ends who they like in this recruiting class.  Young tight ends rarely make a big impact.

First is Will Tye.  FSU pulled Tye out of a prep school in Connecticut.  His recruiting ratings were:

ESPN: 3*/ 78 Rating/ # 19 TE
Rivals: 3*/ 5.6
Scout: 3*/ #19 TE  

But teams who recruited Tye felt he was at least a top-15 type, not just a top-20 tight end.  We wrote:

With his size and quickness, Tye can be a match-up problem for college defenses. Florida State can "flex" him out wide if they choose. Will Tye wants and attacks the ball. He plays against poor competition, but his quarterback is also terrible and he had to adjust to a lot of bad throws. He needs to improve his route running and blocking. But the kid is extremely athletic. Tye also impressed in the Texas High School All-Star Event in which he participated. He repeatedly finds a way to come down with the ball.

Tye came in at 6'2" and about 230 lbs, but he has really taken to the strength and conditioning program and is now roughly 245 lbs.  That's quite impressive.  Tye is also very raw.  I don't expect much out of him this year, but if he does produce it will likely be late as he acclimates himself to the college game.  In time, he could be a weapon for FSU.

Also at tight end is Tank Sessions.  Sessions was less heavily recruited than Tye and was not as impressive in high school.  We did see him at Seminole Showtime last season and he is quite tall at 6'6".  Here's our evaluation: of Sessions:

- ESPN: 2*/ 74 Rating/ # 58 TE
- Rivals: 3*/ 5.6 Rating/ #30 TE
- Scout: 3*/ #27 TE

He has good straight-line speed. He comes from a Wing-T offense (they don't throw the ball much) and has experience as an in-line blocker. Displays more of a physical nature on offense. Not impressive on defense. Displays the ability to come out of his stance low and generate power from his hips on contact. Needs coaching but projects as a capable blocker. Will need to redshirt.

Part of that evaluation was based on Sessions 6'6" 230 lb frame.  However, he has really put on the muscle and is now over 250 lbs.  That's quite impressive for a freshman.  Unfortunately, Sessions had his knee scoped (minor procedure) and that held him back a bit in practice.  He is very raw as a receiver and I do not expect him to make an impact this season.  If he plays it will likely be on special teams or as a goal-line blocker.

Bottom Line

This is a pretty average group of tight ends and it is not one of the better groups in the ACC.  FSU is beginning to attract more tight end talent and is clearly focused on using the tight end more as it attempts to attract mega-recruit Nick O'Leary or Brandon Fulse to sign this season.  In the coming years the tight end position should be in better shape, but this is not a year where the tight end will be considered a weapon.  Last year FSU's tight ends caught 24 balls for 275 yards.  If Reliford can snag 25 for 225 yards that would be a tremendous year for him.  I expect better blocking from this unit as well.

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