ND has big targets

Tennessee could learn a lot about incorporating the tight end play into the passing game while facing Notre Dame Saturday in South Bend. No one in college football utilizes the tight end more effectively than the Irish.

Notre Dame's Anthony Fasano has caught 32 passes for 390 yards and four touchdowns this fall. Backup John Carlson has made nine receptions for 120 yards and a TD. That's 41 catches for 510 yards and five TDs. Conversely, UT's tight ends are essentially blockers who rarely get involved in the passing game. They've combined to catch just seven balls for 70 yards and zero TDs this fall.

Fasano is a 6-5, 255-pounder. Carlson checks in at 6-6 and 254. Both are excellent blockers, in addition to being excellent receivers.

"The tight ends are guys that can do a good job max-protecting," Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "They're big and physical enough to match up on a defensive end or an outside linebacker. They do a good job in the passing game, getting them involved in a lot of ways. They can get down the field on you, as well as running crossing routes and corner routes and those kind of things."

Fasano and Carlson aren't the only big targets in Notre Dame's offensive arsenal, however. Wide receivers Jeff Samardzija (6-5, 217) and Maurice Stovall (6-5, 222) stand above the crowd, as well. Samardzija has caught 44 balls for 750 yards (17.0 per catch) and 11 touchdowns, Stovall 40 for 625 (15.6 per catch) with 5 TDs. Clearly, these guys have the speed to get downfield for big gainers.

"Big guys aren't supposed to run that fast," Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "It gives you a big advantage to have big guys that can run that fast. They're very talented and they've done a great job with their passing game this year. If you didn't have to play ‘em, they'd be kind of fun to watch."

Samardzija and Stovall will tower over Vol defensive backs Inquoris Johnson and Jonathan Hefney, both of whom stand 5-feet-9. That creates serious mismatch problems.

"The receivers are guys that can get down there and go up and make a play over a defensive back, and that's a concern," Fulmer said. "They're fast enough to run away from you but their strength is getting their body between (the ball and) a defender or going up and over a defender to make a catch.

"They're big, physical kids. We're emulating them in practice the best we can, even to the point of putting tight ends out there to let the cornerbacks feel what those big guys are going to be like coming down the field."


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