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August 15, 2011

Drager back to his original spot and hoping to be a playmaker

By: Jimmy Robertson

Not many student-athletes at the elite Division I level can go from being a starter on the defensive line one season to a starter at tight end the next season.

“I like to tell people that I’m not a defensive end or a tight end. I’m just an athlete,” Chris Drager joked.

All jokes aside, Drager figures to be a critical component to a Tech offense that lost playmakers at quarterback, tailback and tight end, where Andre Smith enjoyed a tremendous season with 20 catches, including five for touchdowns. Smith is now gone, and Drager is the only tight end with any hint of experience – albeit experience that came three years ago. For the past two seasons, he worked at defensive end, including last season when he served as a starter.

Tech’s coaching staff decided to move Drager back to tight end because of a lack of depth there. Despite being rusty, Drager won the starting job in spring practice.

“It was a little rougher than I expected, but it didn’t go too badly,” he said. “I learned the plays. They [the offensive staff] switched up a lot of the play names, so I had to re-learn that. Then they started incorporating us more as an H-back and using us as a fullback or in the ‘off’ position [off the line of scrimmage]. That was somewhat different than what I did my first two years. That was the toughest part.”

It’s not as if Drager is unproven, though. He played in four games at tight end as a true freshman and caught a couple of passes, but a torn ACL ruined that season, and he ended up receiving a medical hardship waiver. The next season, he played in all 14 games at tight end and caught a couple of passes.

As a redshirt sophomore, he played defensive end, as the staff moved him because of a lack of depth at that position. He played well at that spot for two years, with last season being his best. He recorded 34 tackles, including six for a loss, and two sacks.

Then after last season, he found himself summoned into head coach Frank Beamer’s office and knew what was coming.

“I loved playing defensive end. That’s probably my favorite position to play,” Drager said. “But I think I’m better at tight end. I think I’ll be able to help the team out more on offense.”

Tech needs for Drager to have a big season in part because of the unproven reserves behind him. Eric Martin came out of spring as the No. 2 tight end, but he played in nine games last season and did not catch a pass. Randall Dunn was at No. 3 on the depth chart. He played in seven games last season and caught one pass.

That leaves one to believe that Drager will have to produce – and he hopes he’s ready.

“I think I’ll be able to answer that better in a few weeks,” Drager said, looking toward the season opener. “Right now, there is no reason not to be confident.”


Returning starter: none

Starter lost: Andre Smith (25 career starts)

Projected new starter: Chris Drager

Top reserves: Eric Martin, Randall Dunn

Newcomers: Darius Redman, Ryan Malleck

Breakout candidate: Drager

Notes: Drager’s last catch in a game came Oct. 4, 2008, against Western Kentucky … Dunn caught one pass for nine yards (in the Wake Forest game) – the last catch by a returning tight end … Dunn also caught a touchdown pass in one of Tech’s spring scrimmages.


33 Chris Drager (6-4, 264, r-Sr.)

86 Eric Martin (6-2, 269, r-Soph.)

13 Randall Dunn (6-2, 228, r-Jr.)

George George (6-4, 265, r-Jr.)

Fuller Hoepner (6-2, 227, r-Fr.)