Spring countdown: Tight ends

Colorado's move to a West Coast offense under a new coaching staff in 2011 will mean the tight end position will be more heavily involved in the offense than in the recent past. There is one sure fire way for one or two members of the tight end group to separate themselves from the pack and get on the field. Get inside for more.

It's simple. The best run blocking tight ends will likely get the first opportunity to play and catch a few balls on play action passes next fall.

"That's what your expectations are when you bring in the offense and what you're required to do," tight ends coach and passing game coordinator J.D. Brookhart said. "That always weeds things out."

Colorado coaches have made it no secret they plan to install a physical system that relies on the run game. It's likely to feature plenty of two-tight end looks, which means coaches are going to need three or four players who are confident with their assignments and ready to contribute on a weekly basis considering the possibility of injury.

Brookhart will be working with the same core group from last season minus sixth-year senior Luke Walters.

Senior-to-be Ryan Deehan is the most experienced player in the group and as close as anyone on the roster can get to being a shoe-in for a starting job because of his experience and also the fact that he has proven he can be blocker and a pass catcher. Deehan caught 25 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown last year. Those numbers should rise in his senior season.

"Deehan is a interesting kid because he was all over the field," Brookhart said. "He's a smart kid. Those guys will allow you to be more flexible with things when you can put them in multiple positions.

Hopefully more of them are like that. He can do some things set-wise, have guys off and on the ball and flex him and do different things. I think that as we grow through spring, we'll probably have a little better idea of how they fit our system because the system is flexible. You don't have to line up in two tights and run it downhill the whole time. You can do some different things. We'll figure that out. We're just getting an idea of what we have right now."

Third-year sophomore DaVaughn Thornton came on at the end of last season and has had fans excited for several years now. It will be interesting to see if he can begin to meet the expectations that have followed him.

Redshirt freshman Harold Mobley was expected to try quarterback, at least at the outset of spring ball, but it sounds as if Brookhart is expecting to have Mobley in his group throughout spring. Mobley was identified as the top member of the 2010 recruiting class under former coach Dan Hawkins.

Fellow redshirt freshmen Henley Griffon and Kyle Slavin also should challenge for the first playing time of their careers. The best run blocker in the group is likely to get the first opportunity.

"I think if you look at the tight ends specifically, you have some different body types," Brookhart said. "Some are more adept to the run game, some more to the pass game who were kind of more recruited to the spread offense.

"I think we've got to be smart how we use them. I think they've made a good commitment to the 6 a.ms. and things that we've seen from them. They want to be good and that's half the battle."

Brookhart also will be working with converted offensive linemen Matt Bahr and Scott Fernandez and sophomore walk-ons Alex Wood and Matt Allen.

Brookhart said he senses excitement from his players about the new offense and a fresh opportunity.

"No question," Brookhart said. "It probably helps it even more when the head coach is a tight end. He knows what that role can do. I think teams always gravitate a little bit toward their coordinator and their head coach and what they are. We've got a run guy in Bieniemy and a tight end-pass guy in Embree. Still in the end, we've got to find who are playmakers are."

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