New Tight End Making Adjustments

The need and ability both appear to be present in freshman tight end Matt Traverso. The question is how quickly he can mentally adjust to the college game and Stanford's offense. The early results are in...

Matt Traverso is walking into a slightly different situation than perhaps he thought he would at Stanford. When he signed his National Letter of Intent last February, he saw three upperclass and very talented tight ends in front of him on the roster. Ample time was likely there for him to redshirt, adjust and mature his body. Sure, injury to one or more of Brett Pierce, Darin Naatjes or Alex Smith could bring him into early service, but the pressure was not imminent.

But with the very recent professional baseball signing by Nacho, there is almost no chance that Matt Traverso has time to redshirt. Tight end is a brutally physically demanding position, requiring the stresses and impacts that O-linemen receive while blocking, on top of the hits one can receive crossing the middle of the field for a reception. Indeed, Stanford has dug deep into its tight end depth the last several years to field two tight end sets in the face of several injuries. It is unthinkable that Stanford would believe it can play out this 2002 season with just two active TEs.

So with a close eye, I have watched Matt these past two days for the first four practices that the freshmen conducted. Matt showed me Tuesday morning that he looks and moves the part, though he had a concerning number of balls bounce off or through his hands. And the routes were uncertain and imprecise. OK, he needs these first three weeks to really get adjusted and mentally take in the game.

Instead, the Sacramento phenom showed up Tuesday afternoon in just his second practice and looked like a wholly different player. Crips routes, confidence in his movements, and great hands. I had a hard time reconciling the night-and-day comparison from the morning to the afternoon. And notable, Matt continued the rapid progress on Wednesday with a really strong morning practice and very good one in the afternoon. 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work saw a load of the passing game going to Traverso, and he converted at a high percentage.

Matt frankly said that Tuesday morning he came in very nervous, and attributes the disappointing pratice to "lots of jitters."

"I improved three hundred percent to the afternoon. Just everything felt better for me out there."

Good thing for the Stanford program, who can and has to use Matt this fall. It is also worth noting that the buzz in this staff is that Matt has a really special upside to him. He physically is the package for a prototypical tight end.

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