Saturday, July 21, 2007

2007 Recruiting - The Tight Ends

For the 2007 recruiting class, LSU signed three tight ends. The one to the left is Jordan Corbin, formerly called Jordon Hammond. He is a Lakeland, FL prospect (a hotbed of recruiting for several schools). He is a 4-star tight end, 6'5" 235# with a 4.7 second 40 time. Like a lot of superior athletes, he played on offense and defense in high school, recording 25 receptions and 50 tackles as a senior. He appears to be the most athletic of the three commitments and the most likely to be a solid receiving target.

This is Mitch Joseph from Catholic-New Iberia, a school that has developed into a pipeline for LSU recruiting lately, with Mitch, Jared Mitchell, Zhamal Thomas, and Ryan St. Julien all giving their pledges to LSU out of Catholic-New Iberia in recent years. Mitch is a 3-star tight end at 6'4" 243#, a 4.8 second 40 and a solid 28" vertical. Mitch is reportedly a terrific blocking tight end, with sure hands but without the speed and athleticism to really be an offensive playmaker, though he could move the chains reliably. If, in fact, Gary Crowton's offense is going to rely more heavily on receiving tight ends, one wonders if Mitch Joseph might use his blocking skills to find another home on the offensive line.

This is Alex Russian, a 3-star tight end out of Round Rock, Texas. He is 6'4" 231# and runs a very respectable 4.66 40 yard dash with a very impressive 33" vertical leap. He was Academic All-State in Texas (honorable mention), so he's an intelligent kid, which would bode well for him if in fact he changes positions. He is another great athlete and some say a sleeper recruit of this class, and had offers from Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Nebraska among others. Many think he was recruited primarily because he's a solid deep snapper, and every team needs one good deep snapper who can get the ball to the punters quickly and reliably. He caught 24 passes for 7 touchdowns as a senior in high school.

A lot of people have wondered, why have we signed three tight ends (and two kickers) in the 2007 class. They always ask it together, but the answers are basically the opposite. We've discussed the kickers. You know my opinion that it is necessary and desirable to have good specialists on the teams, as these people can and often do decide the outcomes of close games. While kickers are specialists, tight ends are generalists. They are often very good athletes with good coordination, good hands, large frames, and are roughly in the 230-250 pound range. Most teams will use three tight ends regularly over the course of a season.

But most important is a tight end's versatility. A tight end is also the right size to play fullback. If he's got quick feet and good blocking ability, and if you need a solid fullback, put him in the backfield. LSU did it with David Jones a little bit in the 2005 season when Shawn Jordan was suspended. You can also move a tight end to defensive end. LSU famously did this with Marcus Spears, and he ended up having an All-American calibre career and was a 1st round draft pick. You can also beef up a tight end and move him to offensive guard or offensive tackle. I recall that a great Arkansas tight end of recent years made the move to tackle upon reaching the NFL. Dwayne Jarrett of USC was originally recruited as a tight end and became one of the best wide receivers in college football over the last couple years.

While I won't go so far as to say that there is no limit to the number of tight ends you can have on a team, I am not concerned at all if there is a large number of them, precisely because of their versatility. Mitch Joseph, it appears, could move to offensive line. Jordan Hammond may move to defensive end. Alex Russian may move to fullback for all we know.

Or, they could all end up being tight ends. It's unlikely that ALL of them will be tight ends, I suppose, but you never know. For all the talk of tight ends being versatile and easily moved, it is also true that a team needs several people to play tight end.

The 2007 recruiting profiles are approaching the end. There are only 4 profiles remaining, and it is my goal to finish them all before Fall Practice starts, with is I think a good demarcation between "off-season" and "pre-season". I didn't think about SEC Media Days, which start next week, and which I will be paying close attention to for the first time in my life, because this is the first time I've covered college football "professionally". I suppose that could be the demarcation point, but these profiles won't be finished by then, and I was always shooting for the start of Fall Practice to be finished with this. I'm in good shape for that.

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