Lane now a TE

Robert Lane played quarterback for the Ole Miss football team for most of his first three years. It has already been well-publicized he will switch to tight end for the 2006 season. How does the talented junior feel about the move? Read about it inside.

Just 12 months ago, Robert Lane was set to do battle for the starting quarterback position.

Since then, his Ole Miss football career - now entering its fourth year - has gone full circle.

Lane, with help from a late injury, ended last spring as the number two signal-caller to Micheal Spurlock. During the season, he got a start and some playing time, but was eventually moved to fullback, tight end or wherever the coaches could figure out a way to get him the ball.

When the season ended, Robert wasn't sure about his future in football or at Ole Miss.

"I had to ask myself where I wanted to be and what did I needed to do to be successful?" said Lane, a rising junior. "I took the whole Christmas break to just step back and get away from everything.

"I had some great conversations with Coach O and with my parents and people I trust. Coach O was great. We discussed everything several times. He agreed with me about needing some time and in doing what was best and right for me. But mostly I got away from everything and did a lot of hunting, which gave me a lot of time to think."

Robert, to the delight of everyone invloved, opted to a) come back to Ole Miss; b) play any position the coaches wanted him to.

"Ole Miss is in my heart," he said simply.

The coaches have asked him to settle in at tight end, something Lane is eager to do. With spring training starting Saturday, Lane now has "TE" next to his name on the roster.

"I'll miss quarterback some because it's all I've ever done in football," he stated. "I like playing quarterback, but I've said all along that as long as I am on the field and helping the team, I'll be fine."

So with spring training three days off, Lane begins a different journey in his football career.

"I've used the offseason a little differently this year," Lane explained. "When I was a quarterback, I tried to keep my weight in the 225-230 range, so I didn't lift as many heavy weights in the offseason. It was hard for me to stay in the 225 range. Now, I am trying to get bigger, so I have lifted more heavy weights."

The result, to this point, is 10 extra pounds of good weight.

"I weigh 240 pounds now and feel pretty good about it," he noted. "(S&C) Coach (Aaron) Ausmus has worked hard with me to make sure I gained weight that would not hamper my movement. I've gotten a lot stronger, but I am also handling the weight well from a movement standpoint. Sure, I can feel the extra weight, but it's how you handle it that counts and I'm handling it fine right now.

"If I can play at 240-245 in 2006, then I should be able to play in the 245-250 range in 2007. NFL tight ends average about 255-260. I can work up to that in time."

Robert expects a smooth transition to TE.

"There is a lot of work to do - there are things I will be doing for the first time," Lane said, "but tight end is not as mentally taxing as quarterback. We will put in our share of time, but at quarterback there is so much more to learn. Mentally, I think tight end will be a snap compared to quarterback.

"Having said that, there are a lot of techniques to learn. Last year, when I was moved to tight end or wherever, I still sat in on the quarterback meetings and really didn't get to learn the little things about playing the other positions. This spring, I have to learn all the blocking techniques and the little things like getting off the ball when there is press coverage or how to get into a route the most effective way. I will get it down pat, but there is work to do. I expect to be successful, but I know there will be a lot of effort involved to reach that level."

Lane got a shot in the arm concerning his tight end quest when Dan Werner was hired as the new offensive coordinator.

"Coach Werner and (OL) Coach (Art) Kehoe coming on board excited all of us, but particularly the tight ends because we all watched film of Miami and realize how important the tight end position is to this offense and the great tight ends, like Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey, that were at Miami," said Robert. "I think it's very important to use all your weapons in the SEC. Coach Werner does a great job of spreading the ball around and including the tight ends in the offense. That fact alone has motivated all of us."

Robert also believes he can use his experience at other skill positions to help his case in the tight end slot in the new offense.

"In this offense, the tight end is not just a stationary 6-5, 280-pounder lined up next to the tackle. He's more of the 'move' guy. The tight end may line up out wide, in the slot, inside or used in motion. Actually, I'd call him the 'move guy' more than the tight end," he noted. "I think I can use my experience as an H-Back to help the position."

Lane will be mentored by new TE Coach Hugh Freeze, who is already a "hit" with the tight end group.

"Coach Freeze is great. He's got a fantastic football mind and he's a guy we can completely trust. We'll be learning some things together, but we are very excited about him," stated Robert. "We will work hard for him - I can already see and sense that."

One minor challenge Robert said he will have to balance is his role in the leadership of the offense.

"At quarterback, I was used to being vocal and giving out a lot of directions," he allowed. "At tight end, I still want to be a leader and will help any way I can, but I will have to be careful to let the quarterbacks do their thing and not try to do it for them. I'm a tight end now and I will have a different role in the huddle. The last thing I want to do is overstep my boundaries.

"That's a small thing, though, because I'm aware of that possible pitfall and will react accordingly."

Overall, Robert Lane is content, something that probably couldn't have been said for much of last year.

"I'm excited about the opportunity at tight end I have and I'm glad I chose to come back to Ole Miss," he closed. "I look for good things to happen for me and Ole Miss football in the future."

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