Versatility at TE gives Vols plenty of options

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."

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Comments » 11

RoadTrip writes:

Sounds great, but I will reserve judgment until I see them on the field next season.

born2ride writes:

A versatile tight end sounds kind of dirty.

AllVol1 writes:

Something about this sounds too good to be true. But, if it is true, then once again I'll say it, our offense could be downright explosive this year.

I really hope Cordarelle is studying that playbook. Does he realize what a weapon he becomes if he shows up this summer ready to earn true reps at WR?

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

CDD said from the beginning that he wants TE's to be able to do lots of things and learn all the sets and schemes and he's been trying to recruit good TE's from day 1.

In a good Pro set O having 2 good TE's that have learned how to do multiple things well can really help the O keep moving and score more as we've seen in the NFL alot more in the last few years.

Good TE's can help the run game alot when they're serious about their blocking skills and can catch alot of balls, move the chains and score more TD's when they're serious about their recieving skills.

I think we now have some TE's with really good potential so that makes defending our O that much harder for every teams D players.

It's nice that CDD and CJC finally have more experienced and knowledgable O weapons to work with that will open up alot more options for our O to work with.

C'mon Bray, study and work hard and learn to read the D and your O weapons all around you will be really hard to stop!!!

VFL...GBO!!!

OrangePride writes:

Here's what I liked about this article ....options and multiple fronts! If you sat anywhere in my section for the last 4 years (including the late Fulmer era), one complaint was always how predictable and unimaginative our offense seemed to be as compared to the good SEC teams. From what we are hearing about this spring, both sides of the ball are working hard to be more dynamic, more versatile, and less conventional. I doubt we will see the fruit of this in the O/W game; it takes time to get this internalized. But I do like the thinking and direction. Let's see if Dooley and this new staff can actually put this on the field this fall. GO VOLS!

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Here's what I liked about this article ....options and multiple fronts! If you sat anywhere in my section for the last 4 years (including the late Fulmer era), one complaint was always how predictable and unimaginative our offense seemed to be as compared to the good SEC teams. From what we are hearing about this spring, both sides of the ball are working hard to be more dynamic, more versatile, and less conventional. I doubt we will see the fruit of this in the O/W game; it takes time to get this internalized. But I do like the thinking and direction. Let's see if Dooley and this new staff can actually put this on the field this fall. GO VOLS!

I wouldn’t sweat about the O/W game. I think people put too much stock in that. They don’t consider that often times the coaches are testing plays they normally wouldn’t run, and then everyone begins doubting the team’s ability level when stats don’t meet expectations. Last year Bray had a terrible O/W game, and came right out of the gates in the season opener and lit it up! Who knows what damage could have been done had the injury bug not hit.

But I agree with you, the offense this year could be dangerous if all this talk holds true!! Love it!

frblalack writes:

Two Words: Cameron Clear. Given more experience, he will be a difference maker! The kid will be playing on Sundays if he so chooses!

orangeman1 writes:

I really expected more from the TE position after Hunter went down last year. Rivera had a good season, but I kept thinking he would be more of a factor. I'm not sure why he wasnt. It would be nice to have someone contribute like Jason Witten did. We definitely need them to help get the running game going and it sounds like with Downs and Clear getting involved more it should open up the passing game for the TE more. There is so much potential for this offense. I am really excited to see if the coaches can put it all together.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to TitanandVolfan4life:

CDD said from the beginning that he wants TE's to be able to do lots of things and learn all the sets and schemes and he's been trying to recruit good TE's from day 1.

In a good Pro set O having 2 good TE's that have learned how to do multiple things well can really help the O keep moving and score more as we've seen in the NFL alot more in the last few years.

Good TE's can help the run game alot when they're serious about their blocking skills and can catch alot of balls, move the chains and score more TD's when they're serious about their recieving skills.

I think we now have some TE's with really good potential so that makes defending our O that much harder for every teams D players.

It's nice that CDD and CJC finally have more experienced and knowledgable O weapons to work with that will open up alot more options for our O to work with.

C'mon Bray, study and work hard and learn to read the D and your O weapons all around you will be really hard to stop!!!

VFL...GBO!!!

I agree with what you said about "more experienced and knowledgeable O weapons to work with". That is pretty much the case across the board, which was certainly NOT the case last year. The Vols seem to have all the necessary parts this year; it is up to them to keep working hard and learning and to the coaches to put them in the right positions to win. I would hate to state a number of games the Vols have to win next year--nothing I think about it will make any difference anyway--but I think we will see a noticeable difference on the field next year. I've got my fingers crossed, anyway!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to orangeman1:

I really expected more from the TE position after Hunter went down last year. Rivera had a good season, but I kept thinking he would be more of a factor. I'm not sure why he wasnt. It would be nice to have someone contribute like Jason Witten did. We definitely need them to help get the running game going and it sounds like with Downs and Clear getting involved more it should open up the passing game for the TE more. There is so much potential for this offense. I am really excited to see if the coaches can put it all together.

It may have been something as simple as Bray's demonstrated preference for firing it down-field on every possible occasion. If the coaches have actually taught him to check down once in awhile, the TEs might live up to their promise. This team should have all the skill-position weapons it needs if Bray can just learn to use the right ones at the right times.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RockyTopRenegade:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What you said.

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