"It feels nice," said Spartans tight end coach Mark Staten. "From our number one guy to our number four guy we are as good as anyone in the country."
The first tight end Coach Staten spoke about is third year starter Charlie Gantt. The Farmington Hills (MI) Brother Rice product has shown improvement in each of his seasons wearing the Green & White.
"Charlie brings a lot to the table. He is a hard worker and does everything he can to be right. He is one of the strongest guys we have on our team with a 470-480 pound bench. In the spring, he started to use that strength and when he punches somebody, you are going to see displacement. I felt he really approved a lot and is set to have his biggest season yet."
While Gantt is as solid as they come. All of the Spartan offensive coaches rave about super athlete Dion Sims. The Detroit (MI) Orchard Lake St. Mary's product enters his second season in the program with many feeling he is capable of a breakout season.
"Dion Sims is 6-foot-6, 275-pounds and runs like a gazelle. I was joking with him the other day that he was a piece of pie away from being a number one draft choice at left tackle. He has now gotten stronger and has greatly improved his game with the ability to stretch the field vertically. He is just a super freak of an athlete."
While Staten stresses the thought has come up about moving Sims to offensive line, it has really never become a subject the staff has looked at.
"Dion has never pushed it away, but it would be something we (the staff) would have to sit down and talk about as an entire staff for that to ever become reality. The tight ends like to joke with him because of his weight, as it would go up and things like that. However, he reported at 275, right where we want him to be. Early in the summer, he was above that, but he worked hard and he is not above that anymore. Dion would do whatever he could to help the team. However, he is such an explosive weapon we would do ourselves a huge disservice as an offense if we did not get the ball in his hands."
Another receiving weapon entered the picture last season as Brian Linthicum returned from his one-year absence after transferring to Michigan State from Clemson. The 6-foot-5, 238-pound, Charlottesville, Virginia native pulled down twenty balls for 266 yards and two touchdowns last season. Staten feels even more is on the way once he is fully healthy.
"Brian is shaking an injury right now, but he's as dependable of a receiver as you want at this level. He is a little different than the others and gives us another weapon to call upon."
The final tight end talked about was redshirt junior Garrett Celek out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Spartans staff has a long running relationship with the Celek family (coached brother Brent Celek at Cincinnati), and that helped getting the 6-foot-5, 245-pound former offensive lineman to East Lansing.
"Garrett is the wild card of the group. He has used the past three years to learn how to be a tight end as he played offensive tackle in high school. Garrett really was not recruited very heavily, but he is really starting to understand things. One thing he has done is really talk about the position with his brother Brent, he uses his brother a lot, and they have a great relationship so that is helping him a lot.
With the increased amount of college teams using the spread, Staten knows he is one of a few coaches still coaching tight end play the way it is done in the NFL. Does he see the position becoming a lost art form in the college game?
Yes, in the spread offense, they call a guy a tight end, but he does not block. He is not tight anymore and he is really more of a wide receiver. In our system, we teach the same techniques they teach at the next level as far as hand placement and feet, the run game and the pass game. So yes, it is a lost art. "
The Spartan tight ends are an area of strength heading into the 2010 season and a major reason some feel the Spartans are a team capable of surprising a lot of people in the college football world.