Tight Ends finding a place in Murfreesboro

Early in the first quarter of last Saturday's game against Georgia Tech, the Blue Raider offense was in a do-or-die situation. They had already ended their first drive early with an interception that led to a Yellow Jacket touchdown. Now they were on shaky ground in the middle of Tech territory.

It was third and four at the Yellow Jacket 25 yard line. The Blue Raiders had already driven 50 yards to get to this point and they had to convert a 4th and one just three plays earlier to keep the drive alive. They came to the line, got set and went to the most unlikely of targets …

Tight end Jacob Corbaley.

The 21-yard pass set Middle Tennessee up with a first and goal situation and led to an ESPN Top 10 catch by receiver Anthony Amos on the very next snap. At the time, the score was extremely important as it tied the game and evened the momentum in a tough road game.

While there were a lot of plays on that drive worth a deeper look, the one that stands out to me is the pass to the Corbaley. First of all, it was the first catch of his Blue Raider career. Secondly, it was extremely out of character for a Blue Raider offense that traditionally relies on screens, slants and just about any other short to mid-range route to speedy wide receivers.

At 6-3 and 248 pounds, Corbaley is three inches taller and 38 pounds heavier than the next biggest receiver to register a catch in the game (Christian Collis measures up at 6-1, 210 pounds for those who want to know). His size – and the fact that Middle generally doesn't utilize tight ends in the passing game – played an important role in the development of his first catch as a Blue Raider.

On the play before, Corbaley was in a three-receiver bunch to the left side and provided a crucial block that allowed Reggie Whatley to turn a screen pass from a sure tackle-for-loss into a four yard gain. As the Blue Raider offense hustled up to the line, he would up lining up where the left tackle would normally go while receivers once again bunched on either side.

When the ball was snapped, Corbaley was one of only two eligible receivers to actually move. And move he did. The junior college transfer ran a straight seam route up the field and caught Kilgore's pass in-stride at the 15-yard line before the first Yellow Jacket defender touched him at the 10. At that point, he used his 250 pounds to drive the ball to the four and set Middle Tennessee up nicely with a score.

I spoke with Jacob when he signed earlier this year and at the time, he had this to say about his conversations with tight ends coach Matt Moore on his future role with the offense:

"They were saying with the new offense that the Tight End is going to be used a lot. We can run running plays and passing plays really efficiently throughout the game."

Considering my conversation with him took place long before the Spring game, it seems as if offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner has had a plan all along. That was easy to lose sight of in the wake of The Opening game, but Corbaley's comments rung truer than anybody ever could have imagined on Saturday – and the tight end position played a key role throughout. Even if it only resulted in one mention in the box score.

For what it's worth, Corbaley also had this to say when I originally spoke with him:

"Personally, I haven't had the opportunity to think of myself as a really good receiver. I've only had probably 17 balls thrown to me in the past two years of college, but I've caught 15 of them and the only two I didn't were uncatchable. I feel like I'm a good catcher, but my main strength was blocking."

Again, this kid sounds like a prophet when you consider he's playing a part in a rushing attack that's averaging over 210 yards per game so far this season. And I think we can all agree that he was pretty spot on about being a really good receiver, too.

Good call kid.

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