Covering the Tight End

Maryland brings one of the conference's best tight ends, Vernon Davis, to Tallahassee on Saturday. What will Florida State do to prevent a position that has hurt them in the past from doing the same this weekend?

Opposing tight ends have been a bugaboo of Florida State in recent seasons. Miami TE Greg Olsen had a game-high 137 receiving yards in the 2005 opener and Cavaliers TE Jonathan Stupar caught 5 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown last Saturday.

This weekend, the Seminoles will contend with Maryland's Vernon Davis, who leads the team in receptions with 28 for 538 yards and three touchdowns.

"Down through the years that's been a tough one on us. You get fooled on that fake and whoever is supposed to pick him up, don't pick him up," said Bowden.

Coverage duties occasionally belong to a linebacker, specifically Ernie Sims. Bowden said sometimes a good play action will be enough to open space for the tight end, or that player may slip into open field when someone misses an assignment on a blitz

"I knew that when I moved to SAM that I would have to cover tight ends that could run and catch," said Sims. "It's really nothing different to me. I've played against one of the best of them in Heath Miller. Everybody is talking about how good Vernon Davis is, it really don't matter."

But the on the majority of plays, Florida State opts for zone coverage. This season, opposing tight ends have only caught the ball twice in man-to-man coverage against a linebacker. In total, only four receptions have come in man coverage.

The rest have occurred when a tight end found a seam in the zone.

"If it's a shallow crossing route or a ten-yard hook route then it's the (linebackers) coverage," said linebackers coach Kevin Steele. "But we play a lot of zone. That used to be, for years and years at Florida State they played a lot of man coverage and so the SAM linebacker exclusively had the tight end man-to-man."

Covering the tight end, especially in the ACC where there is an abundance of talent at that position, hasn't been an easy task this season.

In most cases, it's a trade off. Coaches decide what plan of attack will be most effective, whether it include blitzing or max coverage, and hope that they've built a sound strategy.

"A lot of times you have to be careful because you find yourself picking your poison," said Steele. "What do you want to do? Do you want to help those corners on the wide receivers? You have to be smart about what you're doing and you use percentages and tendencies."


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