"Obviously, going into the year, the tight end (position) was a big question mark. We all talked about it. The one guy that we had coming back who had some playing experience, although it was limited, was Aaron Lumpkin. Through hard work in the spring and two-a-days, he became a productive member of our offense this year.
"When we lost him early in the Kentucky game to a small bone fracture in his foot, it really hampered us during the course of that game. With his status being somewhat up in the air, we had to do something. We had moved an offensive tackle, Brian Anderson, there because we really wanted to go to two tight ends. And beyond Aaron, we really didn't have anyone that we had total confidence in at this point as a blocker. We moved (Anderson) there and he has steadily improved. With Aaron going down, it created another situation that we needed to do something about.
"Nick actually went to Coach (Sherrill) and asked him if he could try (tight end). Like any coach, I was kind of skeptical in a sense because he hadn't done it here but had done it in high school. We put him in our drills to see if he could handle the blocking aspect of it. The reason being that whoever comes in has to be able to block. Coach Watts can do things formation-wise in the passing game to alleviate the loss of Lumpkin as a medium range route runner in the passing game. We had some drills set up for him last Tuesday and he showed much more than I anticipated in terms of ability to come off the ball and block a guy. After that exhibition, we have gradually tried to intergrate him into the offense as best we can. Obviously, with this being his second week, he won't know a lot of things but he will know more than a young freshman because a lot of things that the fullbacks do are similar to what the tight ends do. Plus, he is an intelligent guy and likes it because it will give him an opportunity to get on the field more."
Assuming Aaron can't play this weekend, will you play Tommy Ferrill, Brian Anderson and Nick?
"Yeah, it is a position by committee, now."
Do you have any idea who will start?
"I really don't. It really depends on which direction we go in terms of the offense, in terms of opening the game. They will be running in and out all during the game. It will be situation substitution. Each can do some things better than the others, so we have to utilize all of their talents."
You mentioned that tight end was a concern during the spring and two-a-days. When did Aaron finally show the coaches that he had the tight end position under control?
"I always felt (Aaron Lumpkin) had something about him simply because he is an intelligent guy that graduated in three years and he hadn't really had an opportunity. First of all, we didn't use the guy (Donald Lee) we had (last year), so certainly we weren't going to use anybody else. So, he was like an unknown quality. This whole offense was new to everybody in the spring except for Coach Watts. A guy with (Aaron's) intelligence, the more he did it, the more he became comfortable with it."
Do you get to work with them in individual drills?
"Not now, but I saw them early in the year. Now, since we have commenced with practice, I'm not with them that much. What I can say is they will be excellent football players. We still need a big, big guy but they can be the move guy. They can be the guy that is a glorified fullback. And we need two of those guys."
Coach Sherrill and you talk about needing a big tight end. What do you mean by big?
"6-4, 6-5, 6-6, 250 to 260 pounds. You want to have at least one big guy."
You have another tight end, Blake Pettit, who has been injured most of this year. Could he be that big guy that you want?
"Yes, Blake Pettit could be. In my estimation, that is who it is going to be. But still, we need one more guy that is Blake Pettit's size or bigger.
"What Blake has to do is work on his quickness. He has outstanding hands. I remember recruiting him and there was question as to whether he would be able to get big enough. He is up to 245. In one year, he has gone from 225 to 245. And he is muscular, not fat. I think that Blake possesses all the qualities to become a very good tight end. I just want another guy even bigger, not necessarily in weight but in statue, to go with him."
What will the big tight end do different from the move tight end? Will he be more of a blocker and the move guys receivers?
"He will have to do a combination of both. All he gives us is a matchup against some tremendously big guys at the defensive end position."
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.