"First of all, this spring was a unique spring for me as far as being at Mississippi State because I worked with the tight ends exclusively (after working with the OT and TE the last seasons). It really allowed those guys to get the undivided attention that they needed. And they really needed that this spring due to the implementation of the new offense and how big of a factor they will play in it. I'm not just talking about the running game, but the passing game also. In fact, if the people who subscribe to your publication remember the spring game, I think the leading receiver in terms of receptions was Aaron Lumpkin. I believe he caught five passes. (The tight ends) really are very inclusive as far as the direction the new offense is going.
"Aaron, being a senior, has not really played a lot in terms of games, but did a heck of a job for us on special teams. He really had a great opportunity to show that he is worthy of replacing (last year's starting tight end) Donald Lee. Like any guy who gets an opportunity for the first time, he had good days and bad days. Certainly, with this being all new to him, that might have caused some of the bad days. He didn't have an abundance of bad days, but he had a few. The thing I impressed upon him, as I do with every player, is to not worry about what has happened, worry about the next play. I think once he started doing that, his consistency, particularly in the passing game, got better.
"Now, from a running game standpoint, the thing that he has going for him is he is bigger than most people think. He is around 260 pounds and his numbers in the weight room were pretty good. But, from having not played a lot from scrimmage, there are some things, technique-wise, that he needs to work on and improve on. As the spring progressed, he got better at those.
"I see him as a guy who has a chance to be a pretty good tight end for us. As I told him, nothing is etched in stone based on the spring, so he had better continue to work in order to ensure that he will be the guy who starts at that position against Oregon."
Talk about the depth at tight end.
"We have a depth problem because we haven't really used tight ends that much and don't have a lot of experience. After Aaron Lumpkin, we have seven guys trying to play the Y position. To be honest about it, no one guy really showed a great ability to get the job done. So, behind Aaron at the Y position, it will be pretty much open because there was no clear cut guy running in that position.
"I will add that (former MSU basketball player) Lincoln Smith, who came out this spring, really showed that he has some football ability, albeit rusty. I'm really hoping that he is working his behind off during his summer conditioning program, both in the weight room and running routes, because he has a chance, because of his size and athleticism, to be a guy that can give us some depth at that position. Lincoln is here this summer, but because he is doing his internship, he can't work out with the other guys and has to work out alone."
You mentioned the Y position. Talk about the other type tight end position that this new offense uses.
"We will use a lot of two tight ends (formations), which is a rarity here. That is something that most fans will be shocked to know. The Y position and the H position, even though they are similar, are really quite different, depending on the formation.
"I said that to say that we had a young man who emerged as a fairly decent tight end in the H category. That was Blake Pettit, who had been a quarterback in high school."
Before you go any further, what is the difference in the Y and H tight end positions?
"The Y is the guy who usually goes to the strong side of the formation. For running game purposes, he will be the guy that will be required to do a lot of blocking at the point of attack on the line of scrimmage.
"The H guy is almost like a big fullback. He is a guy that can move around and block. He will have a lot of assignments like a fullback would have had if he was in the game. In fact, he will replace the fullback as far as personnel that is on the field.
"Blake Pettit, having never really been coached before since this was his first spring, showed signs of maybe been a guy who can handle that position. Obviously, having been a quarterback in high school to a large degree and a tight end some, the one thing he needs to improve on immensely is his blocking. We talked about that at length during the spring and he got better at it. He also has more size. He is probably close to 250 to 255 pounds and he'll play at that weight for us this fall."
Talk about how some of the other guys fit into the Y and H positions.
"We have a guy, Tommy Ferrill, who has been around here a long time. He is a guy that has a chance to be an H for us because he certainly has the knowledge and picks things up pretty easily.
"We also have a bevy of other guys, including Kyle Wiley and two incoming freshmen, who are vying for playing time but have very little or no playing time at this point. For me to ranked them at this time, wouldn't be fair to them."
You mentioned Lincoln Smith earlier. Is he better suited for the Y position because of his size?
"He is. He absolutely is. Because of his size and strength, he will be a Y for us. He is a guy who I hope comes through and gives us depth at that position."
Lincoln is a very tall tight end. Since he will block and coaches always emphasize staying low when blocking, will it be difficult for him to stay low enough to be an effective blocker?
"That was a concern of mine at first. A guy that tall may have a problem blocking due to leverage. We always use the adage, 'the low man wins.' Certainly, with his height, if he was not able to bend and get low, then he would have a problem in terms of being a good blocker. However, to my surprise, he is a great bender. Once he gets into his stance, one would think he is no more than 6-4 to 6-5. He bends that well. He has a chance to be a big surprise on our team and maybe even in the league. We just have to see if he can get a whole lot done in terms of getting rid of a lot of rust from not having played football for so long."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.