Positional Preview: Tight Ends/B-Backs

TDD continues the walk through the positional previews by looking at the TE and B-Back positions. Questions surround this group's level of preseason health as rising junior Brandon King remains sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Projected Starter: TE Brett Huffman (6'5", 235 - SO), B Tielor Robinson (5'11", 235 - SR)

Reserves: TE Brandon King (6'2", 240 - JR), B - Danny Parker (6'4", 225 - SO), B Garrett Utt (6'4", 220 - R-FR), *TE - Kenny Anunike (6'5", 230 - FR)

The projected starter, Brandon King, has a lingering collarbone injury that has not allowed him to participate in preseason practice. When healthy, King is a sledgehammer blocker and capable receiver. In his absence, sophomore Brett Huffman has assumed the starting role. Huffman has all the tools a coach desired in a prototypical tight end. He has the strength to block linebackers and defensive ends, and he combines a 6'5" frame with soft hands to make an inviting short-yardage receiving target. Last year's starting fullback Tielor Robinson will line up as the starting "B-Back", which is a fullback/tight end combination position. Robinson is proficient lead blocker and is an effective receiving target out of the backfield. Sophomore Danny Parker is more of a pass-catching TE and will probably be a 3rd down specialist. Redshirt freshman Garrett Utt has decent size and might see time in short yardage situations and special teams. Freshman Kenny Anunike injured a knee early in the preseason and will redshirt this fall.

The top three on the depth chart (King, Huffman, and Robinson) are all capable blockers. They match-up well, strength-wise, with anyone in the back seven of the defense. Duke's ends are all also reliable pass catchers. You will not see many drops out of this group.

There is no game-breaking receiving skill here. King is a fantastic player, but he will never be confused with Jay Novacek. Huffman has the complete skill set of a college end, but has very limited experience and does not have outstanding speed. He does not present a coverage mismatch for opposing defenses. Robinson is very similar to King: great blocker, reliable receiver, and is not going to outrun anyone. Parker can present coverage problems, but at this point is a liability as a blocker. Without King in the lineup, experience is also lacking here.

Bottom line:
Anytime you do not have your best player at a position due to injury, you will be worse off. King's absence will be felt throughout the offense. Huffman and Robinson will both be fine as the front-line guys. Parker does not block well enough at this point to be considered a reliable option. Utt was a high school quarterback that is still learning the position. The Devils can ill-afford another injury at this position with King still on the shelf. If the remaining group can stay healthy, the rest of the group should be able to make up for most of what is lost with King's absence.

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