Cavan has always been noted as a receiver, so it was no surprise when his new head coach took notice. Schooled for his entire 15-year coaching career in the NFL, Mike Shula appreciates the value of a big tight end that can catch.
"David has had a nice camp," Shula said. "He's been consistent, blocking and catching the ball well. David has everything you're looking for in a tight end. He's big and tough. He has a chance to be a good player."
That praise would be impressive when applied to a completely healthy tight end. But thanks to a broken bone in his wrist, Cavan has been doing the job the past week with a cumbersome cast on his right hand. Quarterback Brodie Croyle marveled at his big target.
"How David catches the ball with that club on his hand, I don't know," Croyle said.
Determined to hold onto his starting job at tight end, Cavan has managed to find a way. "It takes a lot more focus," he acknowledged, "but I've managed to figure out a way to catch it. Some balls are harder to catch than others, but it's working okay right now. I've just got to concentrate."
"Hands of stone" is the phrase applied to unfortunate receivers that have trouble catching the football. But somehow, Cavan works around his one "hand of plaster" to get the job done. "The toughest ones are the passes I've got to reach for, or the ones above me," he explained. "As long as the ball is near my body I'm fine."
Following the second scrimmage, Croyle acknowledged the need to deliver accurate passes. "David's not too thrilled with me right now," Croyle said with a chuckle. "I laid him out a little bit on one pass. But he had another big day for us."
In fact a certain chemistry has developed between starting tight end and quarterback. When Croyle is forced to move around in the pocket, he invariably looks for his big target across the middle. Croyle commented, "David's a legitimate 6-4 guy. Going across the middle it seems like he has a 10-foot wingspan.
"When you throw it to him as a safety valve, there's a 90 percent chance he's going to come down with the football."
As a former quarterback himself, Shula knows the value of a dependable safety-valve receiver. "David caught a couple of passes (during scrimmages) with that big cast on," Shula said. "I'm very happy with how he's practiced."
Last season Cavan was the starter in Bama's first two games, before a concussion forced him to the sideline. He ended up playing in seven games, catching two passes for 27 yards and a touchdown.
Considering how well he's been playing this fall, Cavan's recent setback is frustrating. "(The doctors) are not sure yet when I can get the cast off," he related. "They'll just have to see how it goes, how it's healing. It's frustrating, but it's given me something else to work on. I've got to work a little harder now to keep up to what I was doing.
"Things happen. You've just got to deal with them."
Spoken like an athlete that grew up around football. Cavan is the son of Pete Cavan, who played halfback for Coach Bryant from 1975-77. His uncle, Mike, was recently the head coach at SMU.
When Cavan arrived on campus three years ago, he was a slender 220-pounder, looking almost more like a wideout than tight end. But thanks to hours in the weight room under the supervision of Ben Pollard and Terry Jones Sr., he's now a solid 260 pounds.
"With Coach Pollard and Coach TJ, you can't help but get bigger," Cavan said.
Once noted as a receiver only, Cavan's coaches now praise his blocking ability as well. "I've done pretty well on my blocking," Cavan said. "I still like to catch the ball more, but I like to block, too."
Coach Shula has praised all three top tight ends this fall. Along with Cavan, both Clint Johnston and Donald Clarke will see plenty of game action. "All three tight ends are having really good camps," Shula said. "The tight end's role will be different at times, based on our personnel. But both Cavan and Johnston can run and catch."
Cast or no cast, Cavan says he can be counted on to handle everything Shula asks at tight end.
"I'll be out there; I'm not limited at all," Cavan stated firmly. "The coaches can still use me for everything."