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May 12, 2009

Tight end position may be the offense's deepest coming out of spring - even with Drager switch

By: Jimmy Robertson


8 Greg Boone (6-3, 287, r-Sr.)

18 Sam Wheeler (6-3, 258, r-Sr.)

85 Rob Stanton (6-4, 244, r-Jr.)

89 Eric Martin (6-2, 250, Fr.)

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring doubles as the tight ends coach and he may field the deepest position on the team.

Well, at least he may have until head coach Frank Beamer and the defensive coaching staff pilfered one of his standouts.

Chris Drager, who won the Coaches’ Award as the offensive player who had an exceptional spring, was moved from tight end to defensive end following spring practice. A lack of depth/experience at defensive end necessitated the move.

“This program is all about what’s best for the team,” Stinespring said. “Right now, our team needs some help at defensive end and Chris can address that. He played the position in high school and he can address some of the concerns we have. He indicated that if it’s best for the team, then he’d do it. I can’t tell you how much that means to all of us.”

Greg Boone

Stinespring still has some talented players at his disposal. Coming out of spring, Greg Boone stood at the top of the depth chart, which comes as no surprise considering he started 13 games a year ago.

“He was solid this spring,” Stinespring said. “He worked hard at his spot. He caught the ball well and he did good things with the ball in his hands. I need for him to lose a little weight and I want him to be more of a leader, which he is doing. But I’m asking more from him. I expect more from him.”

Sam Wheeler and André Smith now stand as the No. 2 and No. 3 tight ends.

“Sam was limited this spring because he didn’t practice on Mondays and Wednesdays with classes,” Stinespring said. “Last year, he was coming back from a knee injury. Yes, he was cleared to play, but he couldn’t play as fast as he needed to play. Now, he is healthier and more confident. I feel he can get in the mix.”

Smith, who played in every game a year ago, missed spring practice after undergoing offseason surgery on his shoulder. He was not listed on the depth chart because of his injury, but figures to be heavily involved next fall once he returns to the field.