Turning Heads

FSU's tight ends accounted for six pass receptions last season. Guess what? The 'Noles have already sliced that number in half. The trio of Paul Irons, Matt Henshaw and Donnie Carter is turning heads for its aggressive run-blocking and -- surprise -- pass-catching ability. Each has a reception heading into Saturday's key Atlantic Coast Conference home showdown against Georgia Tech. "We have just been trying to make the coaches feel comfortable about throwing the ball to us," Henshaw said

Florida State's tight ends accounted for six pass receptions last season.

Guess what?

The Seminoles have already sliced that number in half two games into the season.

FSU's tight end trio of Paul Irons, Matt Henshaw and Donnie Carter is turning heads for its aggressive run-blocking and -- surprise -- pass-catching ability. Each has a reception heading into Saturday's key Atlantic Coast Conference home showdown against Georgia Tech.

"We have just been trying to make the coaches feel comfortable about throwing the ball to us," Henshaw said following Tuesday's practice.

"Every ball that has been thrown to us, we've caught it. That hasn't been always the case in the past. The tights ends have had a case of bad hands (laughing). Now, we are starting to be incorporated into the offense a little more. We are starting to get excited."

That's good to hear, since the trio is determined to add a little gusto to the Seminoles' passing game. That wasn't the case last year, when Patrick Hughes and Irons combined on five receptions for 37 yards.

In 2001, Carver Donaldson, Hughes and Irons, making the switch from fullback, were one better, finishing with six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

During spring drills, however, something funny happened. While the unit continued to concentrate on rush-block as expected, Henshaw, Irons and Carter, a former defensive lineman, made nice contributions down field with their hands and legs.

The group carried that momentum into preseason drills and into the season's first two weeks. The players could very well play a key role against the Yellow Jackets' small but quick defense.

"They are getting better," recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach John Lilly told TheTerritory Tuesday.

"Every one of them it's a little bit of a new experience for them. Even Paul because Paul has never had games where he has played as many plays as early in the game as maybe as what he is right now. He has handled that very well. And Matt, who played sparingly last year, and Donnie, who had never taken a snap at tight end in a real game, both of them are coming along.

"If they can keep showing improvement every week and at the same time being able to contribute and make some plays, that's what you want out of them."

Henshaw, who was recruited by FSU as a quarterback, and Carter each made their first career reception against Maryland last Saturday.

Henshaw's catch went for nine yards and a first down, the last few when he was shoved forward by a Terps lineman. Carter's catch went for three yards. Irons is the leader in the clubhouse with one catch for 18 yards against North Carolina, and three career catches for 24 yards overall.

"I was just thinking, ‘Please God, let me catch this ball so I don't drop it in front of 85,000 people and have coach Lilly jump out of the box and strangle me. And then not get back in the game, too.' I was just trying to catch the ball," Henshaw said and laughed.

"I knew where the first down. I wasn't trying to make any (fancy) moves. I was trying to make the first down -- luckily one of their defensive linemen helped me along."

Of course, that pretty much describes Henshaw's unit this season. Already a key part of the running game, Irons, Henshaw and Carter want to help the offense in passing situations as well.

"I know they (coaches) said that (more involved) in the preseason but they were still a little hesitant. Which is fine," Henshaw said.

"They should be hesitant because, in the past, they've given the tight ends a chance to prove and they didn't prove themselves. We are trying to prove ourselves. Of course, we also have to be aggressive in our run-blocking as well. I have to be a little nasty in there, be as aggressive as I possibly can. I don't have the weight to be lazy.

"Donnie, being a former defensive guy, he has that the tight end mentality and Paul's a great blocker, too, being an offensive lineman in high school. So, we just have to keep working hard and earn the faith of the coaches. We have to keep proving we can catch the football."


Nole Digest Top Stories