Nakia Griffin entered the spring atop the Rutgers depth chart at tight end, but the sophomore knows he has a long way go before he secures the title of a starter.
“That’s something I feel like I want to earn,” Griffin said. “Right now, it’s just spring and I haven’t been named the starter or anything by that means. I’m not really worried about that too much. I’m just working hard each and every day, and then if I am named the starter, I would be thankful for that. But I’m nowhere near the starter right now.”
The 6-foot-5 Griffin spent two developmental years on the sidelines as Nick Arcidiacono and Matt Flanagan split time with the first team. Griffin takes what he learned behind both as they depart and he slides up the two deep.
“I learned football in general,” Griffin said. “Nick and Matt are extremely smart football IQs, above average and they told me a lot of things I didn’t know. I came into college just using my pure athleticism from dominating the field (in high school) and obviously, that doesn’t necessarily work in college. You’ve got to know the in and outs of football, and they did an amazing job of helping me learn that.”
With a tweak in the offense under Jerry Kill that places more focus on the involvement of the H-back and tight end, Griffin adapts to the functions of both roles in the new scheme.
“It’s a smooth transition,” Griffin said. “Coach Kill and (special teams coordinator and tight ends) coach (Vince) Okruch do a good job teaching the offense. Obviously, we still have things to clean up. We’re nowhere near perfect right now, but we’re working and with the H-back, a great asset to the team and we complement the tight ends really well. So everything’s going well with us right now.”
Okruch said Griffin’s buy in mentally matched his commitment to reps on the field and in the weight room.
“He’s grown up so much in the past year,” Okruch said. “He’s physically bigger, he’s physically stronger, but he’s much more emotionally and mentally involved in the game. It’s become very important to him to become successful as a college football player where I think when we first got him here, he was a young guy and was just trying to find his way. I believe now, it’s important for him to become a good college football player.”
Griffin, who said he currently hovers between 253 and 255 pounds, credited strength and conditioning coach Kenny Parker for his development in both facets.
“Just working hard, getting older, really treating it like a professional approaching things and just going hard each and every day,” Griffin said. “Coach Parker has an amazing strength program. He’s guiding us in the weight room and getting us in the spirit each and every week.”
Now on the right path, Griffin sees the progress from the freshman version of himself to now.
“I came in and I don’t think I was necessarily my best self,” Griffin said. “Definitely had to improve on things like coachability, obviously strength and stuff like that. But now, with the help of coach Okruch and coach Parker and coach (Chris) Ash, they just are helping mold me to a complete football player. So I’m treating it more seriously in the film room and in the weight room and everything. I feel a lot like I’m becoming who I want to become.”