Charlie Coiner on the benefits of learning multiple positions
A Tennessee tight end can line up anywhere.
He is expected to be able to contribute to just about everything the offense does.
Of course, that means the Vols have to know spots everywhere in their various formations and learn how to do anything that might be in the playbook. But with a mixture of veterans and talented young players both with a wide range of abilities, UT isn't interested in holding anything back with its stable of tight ends.
"I want them to understand that they could be a play-side tight end, they could be a back-side tight end, they could be a fullback lined up in three or four places," special teams and tight ends coach Charlie Coiner said after practice Wednesday. "I expect them to go out there in the slot and understand that, too.
"We're trying to create depth, and if you don't have a long list of players, what you try to do is make sure the list of players that you do have know how to do several different things."
The list of responsibilities outlined by Coiner seemed to touch on essentially every aspect of the offense, and UT also isn't just relying on one guy at a time to execute them.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has long expressed his affinity for sets that include multiple tight ends, and with four of them pressing for playing time this spring, he's drawing up plenty of them and leaning heavily on that position group to produce.
There's work to be done as blockers in the run game. They've been called on to provide extra protection for the quarterback in the passing attack, not to mention the work they're expected to do as targets in that area.
And if that seems like a relatively short list of stuff to do, the Vols compound it by mixing formations and shifting the tight ends all over the field to both create confusion and generate some winnable matchups.
"That is something new and different," senior tight end Mychal Rivera said. "Moving me around, that's one thing I'm really happy about and that's one thing I'd love to do — play fullback, play tight end. I love to move around and just be versatile in any way I can.
"And it's really important to be able to put two tight ends in the game and take one of those receivers out and pound the ball, then make us run up the seams or something (in the passing game). Just to give the defense a bunch of different looks, it's really important to have multiple tight ends to be able to do things."
The cast is essentially unchanged from a year ago, though the Vols might not have been quite as flexible with the personnel as they're aiming to be now.
Cameron Clear and Brendan Downs were both just true freshmen last season, but despite flashes of potential at times, neither had the smoothest transition to a higher level of competition.
Ben Bartholomew emerged as a somewhat surprising contributor offensively after a couple seasons dealing with injuries.
And though he's still officially listed as a fullback after seven starts there a year ago, the way UT figures to use him might be indistinguishable from a tight end.
Even Rivera might not have been able to do as much as he'd ideally like during his junior campaign.
Despite finishing second on the team with 29 catches and a touchdown, he perhaps could have used some help shouldering the load as a blocker — which could have freed him up for more work down the field.
But that group is a bit older now, and certainly more experienced. And the Vols seem to have something in mind for every member of it now.
"We feel comfortable with that right now," Chaney said. "I think the tight end room is an awesome room for Charlie right now. There's maturity in there ... (and) all four of those kids being able to play in the backfield and on the line, that just gives you a lot of flexibility, it really does.
"They're a fun group to be around. They understand the game."