TEs in Vols' Future

Getting balance in an offense means making effective use of tight ends, a short-range target on those the those tricky third down and two to five yards calls, or as potent blockers capable of double decking a big defensive tackle as well as sealing off a linebacker in mid pursuit.

If you want to be successful with both the run and the pass it stands to reason the insertion of a big, strong, versatile athlete with a receiver's skill set and the blocking ability of a guard is an essential option. It forces the defense to defend against the pass and the run, sets up play option and creates a mismatch that can be quickly exploited. The last time Tennessee was able to efficiently utilize a weapon of this magnitude was 2002 when Jason Witten played his third season for the Vols. Today many regard Witten as the prototypical NFL tight end at 6-foot-5, 262, with 4.55 speed, sure hands and tough to cover. In 2007 Witten caught 96 passes for 1,145 yards and seven touchdowns. He took up where he left off in the 2008 season opener with six receptions for 96 an average of 16 yards per catch. The Vols may already have a target of Witten's genre, if not caliber, in Florida State transfer Brandon Warren. He saw service against UCLA but wasn't established as a go-to option. That should be a short lived oversight as UT's need for a big target isn't currently being addressed by the receiving corp.

That's why it wouldn't be surprising to see UT try to utilize some looks with both a tight end and an H-back from a rotation of Brandon Warren, Luke Stocker and true freshman Aaron Douglas. With two of those big targets in the game as a package the Vols would be forcing defenses to make personnel adjustments, especially on third down and five yards or less to go. However they would still be putting seven potential big blockers or five receivers on the field at one time.

Move Warren to fullback, as has been done in practice, and UT could use Stocker at H-back with Douglas at tight end thus putting three extra blockers in the game that are all also receiving threats. If Tennessee had a big blazer at wideout like Robert Meachem he'd be the ideal go-to target, but in absence of that the Vols have to deploy a tight end that can get off the line and present a quick target.

The Vols have been pursuing tight end prospects with the same gusto they've demonstrated by courting, committing and signing fullbacks the last two seasons.

Tennessee is currently recruiting four tight ends including three of the nation's top 10 as ranked by Scout.com in No. 3 Logan Thomas, 6-6, 220, 4.68 of Lynchburg, Va., No. 7 Richard Wilson, 6-3, 222, 4.69 of Spanish Fork, Utah, and No. 10 Dion Sims, 6-3, 235, 4.60, of Orchard Lake, Mich.

Sims is a particularly intriguing prospect due to his size, speed and athleticism. A two-sport star at St. Mary's Prepatory where he starts at tight end and outside linebacker as well as being a standout on the basketball court. Sims may miss the rest of his senior season with a with a torn MCL, but is hopeful of returning for the playoffs and basketball season. Regarded as one of the top five prospects in the state, Sims is looking at Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, UCLA and Tennessee, but doesn't list a favorite.

Tennessee's pursuit of tight ends is an investment in a balanced offense.

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