David Traxler was in line to start getting some significant playing time on the offensive line in the 2007 season, but he had struggled a little with injuries and was having a hard time putting on more and more weight.
He and the Ole Miss football coaches put their heads together and it was decided he would move to tight end to give that position more "umph" since both senior TEs - Robert Lane and Robert Hough - were in the 230-240-pound range and were better in the passing game than in the run game.
Traxler went to work last December trying to trim down from the 290 pounds he was carrying to a "svelte" 260 on his 6-6 frame.
Then, he went through spring training at the tight end slot, making steady progress.
"After spring, I felt I was in a pretty good spot. I got a lot of reps with the first team and I was told I'd get a lot of reps in the running game this year," said Traxler. "I even surprised myself with the way I caught the ball.
"But at the end of spring, I realized I will always have to work on my speed and my hands. That's just something I am not used to. The blocking part was like second nature, but running routes and catching the ball need work. I can't always be in on running plays, so I have to be more of a complete tight end."
While blocking is his strength at TE, Trax acknowledged there are differences in blocking from the TE spot and blocking from an OL spot.
"In the zone scheme we run, the techniques we use are the same with the TEs and the OL, but you are blocking different people. The TEs block more linebackers than DEs and DTs. Those guys are a lot faster and you have to track them down sometimes," he continued. "You have to stalk guys more and there is a lot more running and blocking on the run involved. More angles are involved too. Control of your body is very important.
"We are still combo blocking DEs and blocking down on tackles some, but we are also chasing more."
David has never had to read coverages or worry with reading the safety as an offensive lineman. As a tight end, he does have to do those things.
"I know my routes, but you have to change them depending on the coverage sometimes in mid-route. Everytime we run a pass play, I am always asking questions of Lane and Hough. They have been very helpful. They have given me some great tips."
Traxler said he's getting more comfortable at tight end but he's still in the "getting comfortable" stage of learning the new slot.
"I'm real comfortable when I'm in an 11-on-11 practice situation, but when we are doing pass scale and doing nothing but throwing the ball, I feel I need to continue working on stuff to get more comfortable," he noted. "As long as I keep learning, I will be fine. Nothing they have thrown at me has blown my mind. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I see nothing I can't do without work and studying."
David has had to be in a different kind of condition at TE - a lot more running is involved.
"Every play, we are running downfield, either on a route or downfield blocking on a run play. We do basically the same conditioning as the offensive linemen, but there's more running at our position and you have to be in a little different kind of shape," he explained. "I've been pretty stable with my weight. Once I got it down, I have been able to keep it down. I think my body is at a point where I feel more natural at 260 than I did at 290.
"Losing that weight has helped my speed and movement. I feel real good about everything right now, but, as I said, I still have work to do."
Traxler will be involved in two and three-tight end sets heavily. The coaches will utilize the ex-offensive tackle as another OL in many cases and in a lot of sets.
That excites him.
"I think having a sixth OL out there will help us be a more powerful offense in the running game," he closed.
David Traxler update -
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