User ID: Password:

May 8, 2014

Tight ends a strong part of Tech's offense coming out of spring ball

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring has spent the past two years working around injuries to players at his position.

Two years ago, Randall Dunn and Eric Martin battled an array of injuries that limited them and their production. Last August, starter Ryan Malleck suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery, and he missed the entire season.

This spring, Malleck was in the latter stages of his recovery, and last year’s starter, Kalvin Cline, nursed a knee injury. So Stinespring held both of them out of any scrimmage work. He wanted his tight ends at full strength going into next fall, so why put that at risk?

“Both of them are still in the recovery aspect with their injuries,” Stinespring said. “They’re on the far end of it, but still, we wanted to be cautious.”

All was not lost this spring for Malleck and Cline, though. Both spent the first six or seven practices working with the tight ends on drills, and in the case of Malleck, he knocked off the rust after not having played in nearly eight months. Both of them got enough work to know their roles this upcoming fall.

“I like where those guys are,” Stinespring said. “We got them adequate work, the work that they needed. We introduced them to the three tight end sets, so they became familiar with what they were doing out of different sets, and that was important. When they are out there, I believe it creates a lot of diversity with us as a position and as an offense.”

The beneficiaries of Cline’s and Malleck’s absences from the scrimmages were Darius Redman, Bucky Hodges and Dakota Jackson. The three of them got more reps than even they probably expected.

Redman gives the Hokies size at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds and also experience, having played in all 13 games a year ago. He fits into the role of a blocker in traditional pro-set formations, with an ability to catch a pass if needed.

The eye opener of the spring, though, was the transition of Hodges from quarterback to tight end. Stinespring knew he was getting a great athlete in Hodges, who runs a 4.4 at 6-6 and 243 pounds, but Hodges showed Stinespring a willingness to do the other things that the position demands – and do them well.

“There were aspects and concerns that I had about how long it would take him to transition,” Stinespring said. “Those were quickly diminished or completely removed. The measurables – 6-6, 245, runs a 4.4 – those speak for themselves. But he was more physical than I thought he would be. He’s got a willingness to mix it up in the run game. That was an unknown. I was surprised, not that I didn’t think he would, but I thought it would be a gradual climb.

“He’s got things to learn. He’s got to learn that he can’t out-run everybody. He’s got to learn certain routes better. He’s got so much confidence that he can out-run people that he’s not always trying to set up routes and getting a feel for it. He’s got to work on his footwork, too, but that’s just a matter of getting more repetitions. The advantage of Kalvin and Ryan being hurt was that we were able to bring Bucky further along than we would have otherwise.”

Like Redman, Jackson brings size to the position. At this stage in his career, he fits in more as a blocker and needs to work on his quickness.

Overall, the tight ends are arguably the strongest part of Tech’s offense, and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler plans on using them in multiple ways next fall.

“Between Bucky and Ryan and Kalvin, they enable us to be flexible and be in different sets based on what they can do,” Stinespring said. “That’s a great commodity to have.”

2014 SPRING DEPTH CHART (as of April 22)

88 Ryan Malleck (6-4, 241, r-Jr.)

89 Kalvin Cline (6-4, 243, So.)

33 Darius Redman (6-4, 272, r-Jr.)

7 Bucky Hodges (6-6, 243, r-Fr.)

49 Dakota Jackson (6-3, 256, r-So.)

86 Jack Willenbrock (6-2, 215, r-So.)