Move From Tight End to Tackle Keeps Staley Busy

He arrived at Central Michigan University last year as a highly-touted tight end prospect noted for his soft hands and sprinter's speed. Joe Staley completed his first year at CMU playing the position he knew and loved. This year though, Staley has been moved to offensive tackle, where he is expected to be a starter this fall.

Life hasn't been the same this spring for Joe Staley since he was informed by the Central Michigan coaching staff that he would be moved from tight end to offensive tackle.

"At first I was bummed," Staley said. "Then I realized this was a change that was needed."

The 6-foot-5 Staley, who prepped at Rockford (Mich.) High School where he holds the 200-meter dash record (21.9), played last season as a 230-pound tight end. He currently weighs 260 pounds, but must get bigger.

Staley's been told by the CMU coaches he must add another 20-30 pounds before the Chippewas first game this fall against Indiana. Staley suffered his first setback in spring practice when he broke a finger.

Jeff Quinn, CMU's new offensive line coach, understands what a difficult transition it can be for a player to go from a position he knows and loves to another he is unfamiliar with.

"Two things I'll say about Joe Staley. He's a tremendous competitor and he's a team player," Quinn said. "It would have been so easy for him to quit after he broke his finger but he didn't."

The Chippewas have a knack for producing some of the finest offensive linemen in the Mid-American Conference. Two former linemen, Brock Gutierrez and Scott Rehberg, are currently playing in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.

If Staley is to successfully make the transition from tight end to offensive tackle, he need look no further than the University of Iowa for inspiration. There, former tight ends Ross Verba and Robert Gallery not only made the move successfully, but are now both playing in the NFL.

The man who was instrumental in Verba's transformation at Iowa is strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo, who joined the CMU staff in January.

"Ross Verba was a 225-pound tight end when we moved him to tackle where he played at 300 pounds and became a 1st round draft pick of Green Bay in '97," Longo said. "What I see in Staley is that same demeanor and competitiveness."

"Coach Longo is amazing," Staley said. "He's helped me out tremendously."

Staley said it's going to be a busy summer for him as he "busts his butt" to get bigger and stronger. He said all the offensive linemen, better known as the "bubs," have been very supportive, especially starting left tackle and fellow Rockford High School product Adam Kieft.

"Adam thinks it's great that CMU will have two guys on the offensive line from Rockford," Staley said. "We're such a tight-knit group."

That tight-knit group should be a strength of the CMU team this fall. According to Quinn, with Staley's move to right tackle, former starting right tackle Jeff Jenerou will move to left guard. They'll be joined on the offensive line by returning starters Eric Ghiaciuc (center), Drew Mormino (right guard) and Kieft (left tackle).

Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly said he's been pleased with Staley's progress so far and expects great things from him at offensive tackle.

"We were senior-laden (on the offensive line) and needed an infusion of youth and athleticism," Kelly said.

Perhaps Staley will become the next Verba or Gallery, only time will tell, but one thing's for sure, he is now officially a "bub."

"Yes, Joe is a bub," Quinn said, "he's been indoctrinated."

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