Jacksonville Producing Tight Ends

The town of Jacksonville doesn't produce a lot of top football prospects. So it is a pleasant surprise to find not one, but two top tight end prospects one year apart on the Crimsons's team. Junior Blake Hance joins senior Dalton Keene in the starting lineup. Hance attended a recent UI summer camp and made a strong impression.

Tight end Blake Hance traveled from Jacksonville to Edwardsville to participate in an Illinois football summer camp in mid June. He says it was worth the experience.

"It went well. It was a fun day. We worked hard and got a lot of reps in. It was a good day to get a lot of attention."

The 6'-5", 245 pounder is the junior equivalent of Jacksonvile's senior tight end Dalton Keene. Together, they form a formidable duo for all Central State Eight opponents.

"Yeah, we've got two big guys who can catch the ball and run a little bit. We have a spread offense, so we're split out a lot. We're gonna put in a lot more power stuff because we have so much size this year."

It might be wise to use Hance and Keene more for their blocking since they are so much bigger and stronger than their opponents. Regardless, Hance sees benefits to practicing his blocking.

"With the spread, we don't do much blocking. But it's something I've been working on because at the next level, that's gonna be way bigger."

He feels he has assets to be a good tight end.

"My strengths definitely include my hands. I can catch the ball when it comes my way. And then my awareness of the field and how to get open. I can use my height and leverage to get a little separation."

He is working hard on his weaknesses.

"My weakest point is my overall speed, so I've been working a lot at that. I'm getting quicker with my feet and getting faster overall. I've been working a lot on changing directions quickly."

Most central Illinois prospects have an affinity for their state school. Hance is no exception.

"Definitely. That's been my favorite school growing up my whole life. I'm just two hours away from Champaign. It would be awesome to end up at Illinois."

That offer is yet to materialize. In the meantime, he is hoping schools pay attention to his games this fall. He is flexible in terms of his college preference, being willing to consider many options.

"Whatever opportunities present themselves. Hopefully there's a lot of opportunities, but probably location in relation to home and whether they have my major will be two important factors.

Hance is ambitious academically.

"I'm thinking Engineering or maybe some kind of Law for a major. One of those two."

A big run for his high school team this fall is certainly possible.

"This should be our year to make a good run and hopefully win a state championship. We have all the pieces. We have the size, the speed, the talent and depth to win a state championship."

Hance could make someone a good college tight end. He might end up being even better as an offensive lineman once he learns proper blocking technique. Either way, Illinois will be following his progress.

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