Bowden Hopes TE's Catch On

Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden wants to get his tight ends more involved in the passing attack come next season. No, seriously. Bowden's tight ends have been an afterthought in the offensive game plan for much of the past decade, and that's something that he – along with offensive coordinator and son Jeff – has set out to change.

"There is probably nobody in the country that gets the ball to the wideouts better than we do," Bowden said. "If you look at how many times we hit the wideout compared to Miami, Florida, and so and so, we probably hit them more than any of them."

But his chief rivals have had something he hasn't in a while – a game-breaking tight end. Exhibit A: Ben Troupe led the Gators in receiving last year and torched FSU coverage in their 38-34 loss. Exhibit B: versatile pass catching "soldier" Kellen Winslow in Coral Gables is a surefire first-rounder this come draft day.

Bowden said making his tight ends a credible threat would free up his receivers and make life easier for quarterback Chris Rix. He's already trying to do that by adding shorter routes to the playbook this spring.

"The diversity of the offense would really pick up if you could hit those tight ends," Bowden said. "If we could do that it sure would help us. It sure would open things up more."

The FSU staff pledged to make the same commitment at the beginning of last spring but didn't honor it until late in the season. Matt Henshaw caught touchdown passes in the last two games of the year. Henshaw, a converted quarterback, combined with Donnie Carter and Paul Irons to make 16 catches for 276 yards in 2003.

The star thus far this spring has been Carter. The former defensive tackle has been impressive in both 11-on-11 scrimmage situations and in redzone drills.

"There's a lot of new stuff that we're putting in," said the 6-foot-4 junior from Waycross (GA). "It's new in the sense that we haven't run it much over the last two years. Miami and Florida run lot of it are successful with it."

In Tuesday's practice, Carter snared a touchdown from Wyatt Sexton on a short hitch. He also hauled in a scoring pass from Rix from ten yards out on a post before colliding with the goalpost.

"One thing I've learned when linebackers are covering you and you see the ball coming, I don't put my hands up in front of my body," he said. "If they see you with your hands up, they'll put theirs up too and knock the ball away. I was concentrating on the ball so hard I didn't see the goalpost. I guess that's why they put pads on it."

Carter hopes practice success translates into playing time come September.

"We are real deep at tight end right now having three or four of us rolling in here," he said. "We have to make catches in drills to prove ourselves so the coaches will run those plays in games."

He also realizes that he, Irons and Henshaw must prove themselves as a unit.

"It's just like any other job, whether its football or the corporate world," Carter said. These coaches put you on the spot and give you a job a do. If you do it effectively, when crunch time comes late against Florida or Miami, they'll go with it. You got to prove it out here first. You can't drop balls out here in practice."

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