Tight Ends breakdown

Ole Miss Tight Ends Coach Hugh Freeze believes he has winning material to work with at the position he mentors. And what he's most pleased with is the progress they made in spring. Read about it inside.

Editor's Note: The following is Part IV of a series on a position-by-position breakdown with each assistant football coach on the recently concluded spring training session. These stories were published in our Grove Bowl issue that was handed out last Saturday. We have updated any depth chart changes since the stories were originally written last week and apologize to those who attended the game and have already read these pieces.

Hugh Freeze is "new" to coaching on this level, but the principles of coaching on every level are the same.

Coaches strive for daily improvement out of their athletes.

Freeze, who mentors the Rebel tight ends, has gotten that. Consequently, this report, from his perspective, will be an upbeat one.

"I have been extremely pleased with the effort my guys have given us," Freeze noted. "They have picked up more and more of the new offense daily. I can't remember a day when these guys weren't on top of the learning curve. That excites me about them. It tells me what I need to know about their character and want-to."

Freeze is also excited about the situation the tight ends are in. New Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner has a reputation for using his tight ends liberally in the passing game. It was one of his calling cards at Miami and he wants it to be the same at Ole Miss.

"That fact alone will motivate tight ends," Hugh assessed. "Every tight end worth his salt wants the ball. Coach Werner will give these guys that opportunity if they earn it and they all know that.

"This spring, I think this group has proven they deserve to be a vital and important part of the offense."

The following is a breakdown of the tight end depth chart and Freeze's comments on each one:

Tight End – Robert Lane – Junior, 6-3, 235 – "I couldn't be more pleased with Robert," said Hugh. "His effort, his focus and his concentration have been excellent every single day. He's bought in to being a tight end after a whole career of being a quarterback and has done it everything we have asked of him and done it well. Robert is a throwback kind of football player – tough, gritty, not afraid to mix it up with anyone. He's a playmaker with very good hands and a hunger to make yards after the catch. We concentrated on teaching him the fundamentals of blocking – he's never done that before this spring, and he's getting better every day at it. He's a fighter and will get after any defender, that's just his nature on the football field and I love it."

Robert Hough – Junior, 6-4, 224 – "Like Robert Lane, Robert Hough gives you his all on every snap. His asset is his speed because he can stretch the defense from the tight end position," Freeze evaluated. "He has caught the ball very well. He just needs to keep working on his strength and putting on more weight. He can get there and will get there. We'd like him at 235 or 240 when the season rolls around and you will be able to tell a big difference in his blocking."

Lawrence Lilly – Senior, 6-4, 275 – "Lawrence has the most potential to be the kind of SEC tight end we want, but he's still working to tap that potential," Hugh stated. "That's my job. Lawrence has to play for us. He has to get the job done. Together, he and I will get the type of production out of him we need."

Jason Hawkins – Junior, 6-3, 235 – "Jason is a JUCO signee who had the most to learn of any of my guys," said Freeze. "Then he got thrown behind mentally and physically when he contracted mono for a few weeks right after he got here. He lost about 20 pounds and missed a lot of offseason work. That threw him behind, but he's starting to catch on now. The offseason is critical to him. He has to gain back the weight he lost and the strength he lost. I know he can be a player for us because even like he was during spring, smaller and not as strong as before, he showed he's got excellent hands and is a quick study."

Ewan McCauley – Redshirt freshman, 6-3, 230 – "Ewan gives us good looks on the scout team and gives us great effort. We are glad to have him," closed Freeze. "Ewan is young and has time to develop. He needs a monster offseason. I'm sure that will be his goal."

Our Take: Was there ever any doubt Robert Lane would be good at whatever he tried? In our limited view, Robert is one of the most valuable players on the team. He just has a knack for knowing how to play the game of football, no matter where the coaches put him. Look for him to have an excellent year in 2006. Hough is dependable and is like having an extra large WR on the field. He can be a valuable asset. Lilly simply has to turn it on. This is his last go-round. He doesn't need to waste it. Too much talent to squander. L.L. had a great offseason, getting his body and mind right for his last hoorah, but sometimes it didn't translate onto the practice field as he had a sporadic spring session. He has the talent to be consistently good. Now he has to see that through to have a banner senior season. Hawkins is probably a year away, but who knows? A terrific offseason and we might see the Jason Hawkins who was signed rather than one depleted by illness that we saw in spring. Jason did start coming on stronger toward the end of spring and even caught a TD pass in the Grove Bowl, but he understands how far behind he got when he contracted mono in the offseason. Overall, the tight end slot is promising and will be productive when Freeze finishes their "schooling" in August.

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