Fortunately for the senior tight end, Les Miles feels the same way.
“I think (Peterson’s) bigger and stronger than he’s been, and I think he can be on the field in more sets,” Miles said. “I think he’s a much better blocker than he’s been. One of our more physical sets is the two tight ends and one-back set, and he can play in it very significantly. I like him there.”
It’s no surprise given Peterson’s past six months.
Peterson – a one-time wide receiver turned tight end – used the offseason to take his game to the next level, both in the weight room and on the practice field.
“I’ve worked every day to become the complete player they want,” he said. “I have always been able to run the routes, but I wasn’t the blocker I needed to be.
“I made sure this offseason that I changed all that.”
After he played at 228 pounds last fall, Peterson bulked his 6-foot-4 frame to 242 pounds for the start of preseason camp.
“He looks better than ever, and he can still move,” said Chase Clement, who figures to be the second option to Peterson at tight end. “He’s going to be tough for people to handle.”
For Peterson and Clement, the two chief receiving options, the suspension of Jordan Jefferson holds heavy weight – and not just because the two will have to get used to a new arm under center.
With a less-mobile second option in Jarrett Lee, Miles is ready to put more of an emphasis on the weapons at his quarterback’s disposal.
“We have to make an adjustment,” Miles said. “I think the responsibility at the tight end spot to block and catch the balls increases, certainly Deangelo Peterson is one of those guys that will have to block well and receive.”
Miles also said Peterson will move out wide when the offense goes to four receiver sets, giving Lee a chance to find the athletic Peterson in mismatches with linebackers and safeties.
If new offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa takes advantage of those types of situations, Peterson is confident in the results.
“I always have been someone who can get open and catch the ball,” Peterson said. “A linebacker or a safety, I don’t feel like any of them can stop me.”
Last season, Clement, a one-time defensive end who has since grown to 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, helped clear the way for the run game as a power blocker.
Much like Peterson, Clement used the offseason to work on becoming the total package.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better catching the ball, and I worked all summer on that,” Clement said. “They are going to call on me to block, but I also want to be an option for them in the passing game. I think now I’ve proven I can do that.”
Position coach: Steve Ensminger
Starters returning: 1
Lettermen returning: 4
19 Deangelo Peterson (6-4, 242, Sr.)
OFF THE BENCH
88 Chase Clement (6-5, 251, Jr.)
83 Mitch Joseph (6-5, 268, Sr.)
84 Nic Jacobs (6-5, 238, RS Fr.)
47 Tyler Edwards (6-4, 235, Jr.)
41 Travis Dickson (6-3, 230, RS Fr.)
Out of action: None
Veteran difference-maker: Deangelo Peterson
Rising star: Redshirt freshman Nic Jacobs
Something to chew on: Peterson played at 228 pounds last fall, but the one-time wide receiver is now over 240, a weight that Peterson said is better suited for his new focus as an all-purpose tight end.
Numbers of note: With one of the most experienced unit on the team at his disposal, tight ends coach Steve Ensminger isn’t short on depth at tight end. Last fall, Peterson, Clement, Joseph and Edwards all saw action in at least 10 games.
This unit will shine if: The quarterback can get Peterson the ball. After he caught five passes –all for first downs – in 2009, Peterson grabbed just 16 balls last fall. If new offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa draws the 6-4, 242-pounder into the playbook more often, the tight end spot will be one of the offense’s top threats.
This unit will struggle if: Peterson gets into a funk. Peterson missed the first three games of 2010 with an ankle injury, which put Clement into the spotlight. But after eight starts and 13 appearances on the year, Clement had two catches. With blocking tight ends in Clement and Joseph, Peterson will need to remain consistent as a receiving option.
Prediction: In his final year as a Tiger, Peterson will become the threat that armchair offensive coordinators had always called for him to become. And with multiple touchdowns in the most recent scrimmage of fall camp, Clement is proving to also be an option in the red zone. This position won’t disappoint.
Quotable: “I think there is a good potential that (Peterson) will have the kind of year that will be pretty special around here.” – Les Miles
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Tight ends at a glance