Put another way, fans fond of whining about the need to ‘get the tight ends involved' can rest a little easier.
Does using two different tight ends in multiple sets change how you coach them? "There's some variance to it. Shoot, if you're not getting better you're getting worse. So there are some different things that are going on. What is tough is trying to specialize is what Malcolm's (Johnson) skill set is different than Rufus' (Warren) skill set. Brandon's (Hill) skill set is different than Christian's (Holmes) skill set."
"So what it does is it makes you focus as a coach how am I going to put Malcolm in the best position to be successful? How am I going to put Rufus in the best postions to be successful? So I guess you could say it's changed from that standpoint. But the basic things are what you do; blocking and tackling, unless your name is Camp or Stagg or Rockne!"
Is it more challenging or fun to have such variety of tight ends? "To me, I love it. Because outside of Tyler Russell the people who have to know the most of what is going on are the tight ends. They're not really tight ends: they're wide receivers, they're running backs, they're offensive linemen, they protect, they are in the run game, they have routes, they have to recognize coverages, blitzes, fronts. You have to be a special individual to sit in my meeting room."
You have the most depth now with five tight ends? (counting them off) "Six, I ran out of fingers!"
But that you had to count…? "It's a lot better than we've had in the past, that's for sure. There is a lot of depth there. There is not a lot of experience but there is a lot of depth. I love the room, the potential in the room. I'm thankful of 29 practices before we have to kick it off when it counts."
"I was actually thinking about this last night, the most experienced guy in the room is Malcolm and he's missed half the year his two years for the unfortunate things. So you went from a six year guy in Marcus Green who had been around and played at every SEC stadium and had success against all of them, to a little less experience. But it is a deep position, it's finally a nice problem to have."
How is Holmes' transition? "He is moving in the right direction. He has an unbelievable skill set that has to be transformed into the team-set. And that is right now his biggest challenge. He does a great job in drills; when there are 21 other guys out there running around sometimes he reverts to not having played the position before. So he does a great job in individual things, he has to learn to take that into the next step when you have to compete against somebody else instead of just practicing the skill set."
Does his and other guys' versatility play into why State is getting away from a fullback offense? "Yeah, that is how it has kinda gotten ‘smooshed' together. Losing guys like (Sylvester) Hemphill and Adrian Marcus and (William) Shumpert and those guys, they add value to a football team; you have to find a way to replace it. The linebacker room is kind of deep too. A good athlete like Christian you have to find ways to get him out there to help you be successful."
Artimas Samuel is big but he has soft hands as a receiver? "Artimas, once he figures it out, I hate using this word but he has the potential to be an outstanding player here. And I hate using the word potential because it means you haven't don't it yet. As a coach you want to use the word productive. But he has all the skills that you want at that position. He's got power, he's got soft hands, he can do it. It is just the process of teaching him to be a SEC football player."
How do you coach the inexperienced guys at such a varied position? "It's a challenge sometimes because you have to cover so much stuff. Sometimes you have to pick-and-choose what you're covering in a meeting. It's all important but you have to prioritize; hey you were bad in the run game at this so that's going to take precedence (over) the things we have to fix in the pass game. So it really makes you specialize your meeting."
"What you try to do sometimes is cover a little bit of everything, where Rufus maybe doesn't get to see himself in a pass (play) he needs to correct, but Brandon didn't get to see the run game fixes. So you have to learn from each other, otherwise it's not going to work out too good."
Watching Gus Walley, he has a knack for getting open and is big and athletic, his issue just seems to be finishing the catch? "I think that is part of just being a young player. I talk to my guys—and this has nothing to do with Gus, just in general—it is the difference between knowing you're going to succeed and hoping to succeed."
"And sometimes with young players because they are on the big stage now they're hoping to instead of expecting to. It doesn't matter if you're catching, blocking, special teams, I think once you get more comfortable for lack of a better phrase you grow up a little bit more. You get a little bit deeper into the program. That stuff takes care of itself."