Young tight ends thriving

Since Chris Brown, Brad Cottam and Jeff Cottam are proven players, Tennessee plans to play a lot of two-tight end sets this fall.

Considering how well redshirt freshman Luke Stocker and true freshman Kevin Cooper are looking in preseason drills, however, the Vols might want to consider some four-tight end sets for 2007.

Stocker has added 10 pounds to his 6-foot-6 frame since arriving on campus as a 225-pounder from Berea, Ky., one year ago. He also has added considerable strength, recently breaking the program weight-lifting record for the back squat.

"Luke has really, really come on," tight ends coach Matt Luke said. "He busted his butt in the weight room in the offseason. He runs really good routes. He's probably my best route-runner right now. He still needs to work on some things – blocking, obviously – but he has really impressed me so far."

So has Cooper. The 6-1, 240-pounder from Chattanooga is a big guy with ball-carrying skills (nearly 1,900 rushing yards as a high school senior). That's a dimension the Vols haven't had since Shawn Bryson exhausted his eligibility in 1998.

"He's doing well," Matt Luke said. "He's gotten in there and mixed it up. We put a lot on ‘em the first five days, so his head's spinning a little bit but he's giving great effort. He's going to be real special."

Like Stocker, though, Cooper may need a redshirt year to pick up all he needs to know about being a Vol tight end. He was a fullback in high school.

"We have a Y and a B position that are interchangeable, and they've got to be able to play both," Matt Luke said. "That's good for 'em to learn. We flex ‘em out, put ‘em on the line, put ‘em in the backfield. That way defenses can't get a bead on what we're doing."

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