Bearcat Position Preview: 2007 Tight Ends

This week Bearcat Insider concludes its look at the 2007 Bearcat offense by focusing on the tight ends.

An offensive position that is well stocked for the Bearcats in 2007 is tight end.  The old staff recruited a number of players at the position, and with the change in offensive philosophy, four players changed positions in the spring to become tight ends in Coach Kelly's system.

 

The leader according to the recently released depth chart is Doug Jones.  The senior from Dixie Heights High School came to the Bearcats as a tight end but was moved to fullback out of necessity.  Jones was recruited to UC by Coach Minter, but when Coach Dantonio took over the program a year later, Dantonio needed fullbacks and Jones was moved.  Last summer, Doug spent time at offensive guard but returned to fullback just before the season began.  Jones has shown the ability to catch the football and looks to be in great shape as he heads into his final season at Cincinnati.

 

Although Connor Barwin begins the 2007 season listed as the 4-th tight end, he's probably the favorite to win the job after serving as Brent Celek's back-up for the last two seasons.  After all, he is the most experienced at the position, but Barwin has not helped his cause by playing basketball the last two offseasons.  To make matters worse, Connor suffered an injury during spring football while playing pick-up basketball and missed most of spring practice.  The 6' 4" Barwin makes a nice target, but there are plenty of contenders for his job, and he'll need to stay healthy and focus entirely on football if he wants to become the starter in 2007.

 

Another veteran not listed on the depth chart is sophomore Kazeem Alli.  Like Barwin, Alli was injured during the spring and got little on-field experience with Coach Kelly's new system, but Alli is very talented.  At his listed weight of 260 pounds, Alli brings a very nice blend of size and speed.  Kazeem must prove he's again healthy, but this guy could vault to the front of the group this summer and have that breakout year Bearcat fans are waiting for.

 

One of the surprise position changes last spring was moving veteran wide receiver, Earnest Jackson, to tight end.  The ex-high school quarterback made a big splash as a freshman receiver when he caught 24 passes and was voted UC's "Newcomer of the Year."  But Jackson's career took a bit of a nose dive last season when he caught only 17 balls and disappeared in six of the Bearcats' thirteen games by not catching a pass.  The position change could be just what's needed to rejuvenate the veteran into having a big senior season.

 

The beneficiary of Barwin's and Alli's spring injuries was redshirt freshman Ben Guidugli.  The injuries to the frontrunners allowed the Highlands' receiver to get more reps, and he spent considerable time with the #1 unit this spring.  At  a very strong 6' 2" and 230 pounds, Guidugli would seem to offer the versatility needed for this hybrid tight end spot, but I think Ben is probably still a year away from seeing a lot of playing time on offense.

 

Another redshirt freshman at the position is Reggie Fugett, but unlike Guidugli, Reggie was injured for much of the spring and missed a lot of valuable practice time.  The 6' 6"/240 pounder, who's father played in the NFL, is probably too far down the depth chart to contribute much in 2007, but he could very well be a force at the position in the future.

 

The final player listed at tight end is walk-on Nick DeFilippo.  The London, Ohio product has played a couple of defensive positions at Cincinnati, but this will be his first stint on the offensive side of the ball.  The enthusiastic DeFilippo (6' 2"/230) will be a junior and did play some tight end in high school.  He looked very rusty after originally making the position change from linebacker, but his play improved as he got more practice time.  Nick put on an impressive display of strength during a recent workout session I attended, but it's tough to think he'll contribute much outside special teams' play.

 

Although not listed as a tight end, Adrien Robinson (WR) may eventually be perfect for the spot.  As a 6' 5'/225 pound true freshman, the Warren Central wide receiver projects as a very interesting candidate to eventually make the position switch.  Natural maturation coupled with Paul Longo's weigh room workouts could turn Robinson into an NFL caliber tight end candidate, but I don't see that happening in 2007.

 

Next week, Bearcat Insider starts to look at the 2007 Bearcat defense.   


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