Trickett Sees Continuing Resurgence For Tight Ends At WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It wasn’t all that long ago that the tight end was being placed on the extinct list for football players, along with fullbacks and single-wing tailbacks.
The game had gone speed crazy, and it certainly didn’t look to be what you call a “passing” phase.
But don’t look now. Even with Ron Gronkowski retiring from the New England Patriots, the tight ends union is alive and well and has carved out its own niche in an era that once was dominated offensively by “Air Raid” teams that were more greyhound than bulldog.
Even that “Air Raid” maven Dana Holgorsen resurrected the tight end, and Trevon Wesco defined it so well that he seems to have bullied his way into a spot in this year’s NFL draft. Holgorsen’s replacement, Neal Brown, also has evolved his “Air Raid” philosophy to include tight ends, with Wesco’s back up Jovani Haskins looking like a golden inheritance for Brown and his staff.
First, though, how did tight end make its reappearance?
Travis Trickett, the one-time local coach from a family of coaches, was more than willing to offer up his theory, which carries great meaning considering he is in charge of Haskins and WVU’s tight ends.
“The traditional blocking tight ends were in trouble but when Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez came along, they set a different standard,” Trickett said. “When the spread offenses came into the NFL, they realized there was a place for these big body guys.”
And so did college coaches.
“I know Coach Brown, at Texas Tech, had a big bodied tight end and they created a lot of mismatches,” Trickett said.
But you are looking for a unique athlete at tight end, someone big and strong to block in the running game, protect the quarterback in the passing game, along with being able to be split out and run routes and catch passes.
You don’t find that too often, or do you? Trickett knows where to look.
“Because college basketball is getting bigger, bigger and bigger players, there’s a lot of 6-3 to 6-5 guys who aren’t really point guards who are having to find another home at an earlier age and that’s the tight end,” he said.
Big men in basketball have evolved away from the tight end/Charles Barkley type of player, something that does little for Sagaba Konate’s chances as he moves forward.
“Tight ends are special in today’s game because you can spread them out, but they also can put their hands down, play in the backfield, so with the tempo offenses when you have guys who can do multiple things it helps,’ Trickett said.
This is what Haskins took from Wesco’s play last year.
“I learned, definitely, that you have to be a complete player at that position,” he said. “Everyone can catch balls, but the guys that are able to get down there, make blocks, stick their head in there, just be a tough guy in there. I definitely learned that about being a complete tight end.”
They have changed so much, in fact, that Trickett not only coaches the tight ends, but the inside receivers because they seem to mesh together in responsibilities to catch and block.
“You have different body types,” Trickett said of tight ends and inside receivers. “It depends what we want to do with the play. We are not going to put a tight end in speed motion. When it comes to route concepts and the fundamentals of the route, that’s all the same.”
And the blocking differs on the outside because you have so much space around you, while on the inside it’s a different dynamic in blocking.
They see the tight ends and inside receivers get a lot of crossover with coach Xavier Dye’s outside receivers.
“We actually do a lot of group-individual, if that makes sense. You’re doing some things that cross-train among all skills positions,” Trickett said. “Every coach, not only me (but), Xavier, coach (Sean) Reagan, coach (Chad) Scott, we are all getting hands on with these guys and you try to build fundamentals for everybody.
“So, some guys you say, ‘We are really going to work on fundamentals’, but we really try to do fundamentals every day. We communicate very well, make sure what we are not getting in this period we make sure to get the next.
“There will be days I need to really work with the tight ends on something, I’ll send the inside receivers to coach Dye. If there are some things that I’m going to be doing, then he may send a couple guys to me, and say, ‘Hey, make sure we cover this.’ That’s what you get when you have a staff of really good guys that have no egos and those things.
“All we are worried about is winning for West Virginia.”