OU's tight ends having great springs

Oklahoma Tight End Coach Kevin Sumlin talks about his unit's impressive improvement this spring and the play of fullback J.D. Runnels. Redshirt freshman Joe Jon Finley (pictured left) has two touchdown catches in scrimmages this spring.

NORMAN, Okla. — Heading into the spring tight end was considered on of the key focal points for the Sooners. The competition has been tremendous between senior Bubba Moses, junior Willie Roberts and redshirt freshman Joe Jon Finley.

OU tight end coach Kevin Sumlin is in charge of finding the best of this bunch and getting more out of them this spring. Coach Sumlin and his lovely wife Charlene recently became parents for the fourth time with the birth of son No. 2 Joseph Royce (JR) Sumlin. Despite a busy schedule, Coach Sumlin recently sat down with OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Your position has been one to watch this spring considering the starting spot has been up for grabs?

KS: "It is an exciting time. Any spring ball is exciting when you can get back out and roll the ball out and let them play a little bit. That is especially true this spring, because we are trying to get some things done with the tight end. We have just about everybody back on offense, except at tight end. It is a position that we want to develop and we have some guys that are capable. I feel real good about them and feel they are coming on.

"The biggest gains with all three have been made in the off-season with Coach (Jerry) Schmidt, who is doing a great job as usual. Bubba Moses, Willie (Roberts) and Joe Jon Finley have picked up their strength and gained some weight, and of course we want to be a team that plays with a tight end on the field all the time. These guys are coming in their roles and progressing well."

JH: How is the competition going?

KS: "At this point I think Bubba has come back. He gained some weight last year and didn't carry it as well, and I think after a year of carrying that weight and being in the system has helped him. He didn't play at all as a freshman and he played a little bit as a sophomore. As people say, the light is coming on. His blocking has really improved, he has gotten stronger and he is about 244 right now. He is catching the ball and doing the things that we are asking him to do.

"Willie, when he came here, got in here late from junior college and there was a transition for him. To ask him to do the things that we needed him to do, to be at a championship level, he just wasn't ready for that last year. Now he is still a little bit away physically, but I have been pleased with his progress.

"Joe Jon Finley, who will be a freshman in eligibility next year, has picked up some weight at 230, but he is about 6-foot-6, and because he is 6-6 he looks like he is about 190. He is 230 pounds and he is the fastest of the group. He has great ball skills and he can do the other things we need.

"We are pleased with the athleticism of the position and we look for some good things about them. They need to continue to compete, but I think right now we are headed in the right direction and we are really pleased up to this point in the spring. There have been times this spring were we have come up short in some goal-line situations. That is one of our goals, to become a better short-yardage team, and to be able to run the ball better. That definitely involves the tight end and the fullbacks, especially in those power sets."

JH: You also coach the fullbacks and you are looking for a backup to J.D. Runnels aren't you?

KS: "J.D. has played two years and has played wonderfully for those two years. We kind of hold our breath all the time, because we haven't really had a backup to him. Dan Townsend was a walk-on last year and he played quite a bit backing up J.D. and was on special teams. I thought he did a great job in that role last year. After the knee injury to Dane Zaslaw last year, he has come back and we have gotten him on our side of the ball now. He is coming on. He is a physical guy who has played linebacker, so he is not afraid to stick his nose in there, throw his hat inside and block some people.

"Dane is used to the physical part of the game, and I told him when he moved over there that they were not going to call his name anymore. But that he could hit people the same way, but he just wouldn't get his name called anymore."

JH: Fullback is a non-glamorous position isn't it, even though J.D. is beginning to get some pub? Also, aren't you beginning to throw the ball to the fullback more?

KS: "We are incorporating those guys in the passing game. J.D. got mad at me last year, because the first time we handed the ball off to the fullback was in the A&M game and we handed it to Dan Townsend. After two years of playing the way he played and we hand the ball to Dan, so I have to take the heat for that. I wouldn't be surprised even if J.D. carried the ball a little bit."

JH: I keep telling J.D. that he is eventually going to carry the ball in a game and he doesn't believe me. You have to convince him for me that you will hand the ball to him.

KS: "It is kind of the old carrot before the horse deal. As long as he keeps blocking the way he has been and keeps catching the ball, when we throw it to him then we have to hand him the ball at some point."

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