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Boston College Football Potential Breakout Players: Tight End Position

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Hey, someone has to catch the ball, if Coach Addazio is serious about implementing his Florida-style offense, that means the tight end is about to become more than just a glorified tackle position.

Ed Wolfstein-USA TODAY Sports

When Steve Addazio was the offensive coordinator at Florida, the Gators were one of the architects of the spread option offense.  By splitting wide receivers wide, the offense becomes very flexible in the way it's able to move the ball.  By incorporating large numbers of wide receivers, the linebacking corps of the defense is completely neutralized since it's forced to respect the number of guys capable of catching the ball on the field.  This creates mismatches of guys who aren't quick enough or big enough to catch athletic, agile quarterbacks.

Because there's a lack of available linebackers for coverage or run stopping, the tight end essentially becomes one of the most important players on the field.  An able blocker for the run, the tight end also needs to be able to get open and create space in small short zones, allowing the "dink and dunk" offense to whittle its way down the field.  As the corners or linebackers respect the interior pass coverage, the defense becomes susceptible to having safeties and corners picked by players bigger and more athletic.  It also provides a foil against the heavy blitz of the 3-3-5 defense, meaning there's always, always, always going to be 1-on-1 coverage somewhere on the field.  Either the safety cheats up to help or he's forced to cover downfield.  Either a linebacker is stuck covering a wideout or the tight end draws coverage and someone ends up in a mismatch.  It's why teams execute the offense more and more; it's not necessarily about throwing it all over the field.  It's more about using a mismatch to create more favorable scenarios for a run-pass balance on each snap.

Because of its prevalence and importance in Steve Addazio's coaching history, we can be almost certain the Boston College coaching staff would like to run a variation of this offense at Chestnut Hill.  With its history of big, fast, physical lineman, the situation is ripe for an offensive coach to come in and develop the right blocking scheme, thereby creating rushing lanes both up the middle and outside for the athletic quarterback, while still being big enough to provide accurate pass protection.

If Tyler Murphy is to be the quarterback of this season, then it'll be tempting for BC to change playbooks from its "three yards and a cloud of rubber pellets" from last season, especially since Andre Williams is gone and we're not sure of the young guys currently trusted to take his place.  We know they might be good, and we said the same thing about AW44.  But Williams was a senior last year, physically much more mature than the guys who are still developing for the Eagle long haul.

At present, Boston College doesn't have anyone who's used to catching footballs.  That means the X factor on offense could conceivably end up being the tight end position, a slot used less than infrequently over the years.

If BC goes to a spread option, there's a chance the plays are there for the position to make.  The tight end transforms from an extra offensive lineman to a dual-threat, a guy who can block and spread the field by making predominantly two forms of receptions: 1) the outlet pass between 5-7 yards where the QB takes the snap, fakes the handoff in a play action or read option play, then rolls out and dumps it to him.  And 2) the 10-15 yard pass over the middle where the linebackers let the tight end run because they have to contain outside rushes by either the RB or QB.  The safeties are covering deep in this scenario because that's their job, or they've cheated up to cover said tight end.  Either way, it's a major mismatch in favor of the receiver, who will take a hit from a man substantially smaller.

Both plays are open almost every time.  And if the defense commits another player to covering it, then the Eagles are going to find themselves with a receiver open downfield.  If you go back and look at the two national championships won at Florida, you'll see what role the tight end played.  In 2006, Cornelius Ingram ranked in the top five receiving with over 30 catches.  The next year, he had seven touchdowns with just about the same amount.  in 2008, Aaron Hernandez was one of the best receivers on the team in his first year, a top three pass catcher.  In 2009, he ranked second.

And all of this happened with a dual threat, spread option quarterback, first with Chris Leak and then with Tim Tebow.

Here's the catch, though. The BC tight end depth is absolute poop.  There's nobody who can catch a pass; Michael Giacone is huge at 6'5" and over 260 pounds, but he's the equivalent of an undersized extra offensive tackle.  Louie Addazio is not going to be catching balls.  And regardless of who was possibly brought in to do so (I'm looking at you, Tommy Sweeney), they're either going to be too raw or require coaching before BC can really get the position rolling.

We're not asking Murphy to be either of the Florida QBs, no matter what school he attended before Boston College.  And we're certainly not asking any of the BC tight ends to play up to the level of Ingram or Hernandez (and before anyone gets preachy about what he's charged with, let's just look at it from a football standpoint, ok?).  But we potentially are looking at a position poised for a breakout with personnel nobody saw coming.