Stocker the blocker

His name rhymes with blocker, but that's the only connection to the word he had when he arrived at Tennessee nearly five years ago.

Luke Stocker admittedly wasn't a great blocker when he showed up on The Hill. He wasn't a good blocker. He wasn't even an adequate blocker. Just ask him.

"I wouldn't say I was a blocker when I got here," Tennessee's senior tight end said, flashing a sheepish grin. "I think I've developed in the right direction but I don't think I'm there yet. I'm still working on it."

Stocker had no time to block during his days at Madison Southern High School in Berea, Ky. Thanks to a towering 6-foot-6 frame, he was too busy catching passes against over-matched cornerbacks. He caught 38 balls as a junior and 36 more as a senior, averaging a whopping 15.6 yards per catch in his final prep season.

When he arrived at Tennessee in August of 2006, however, Stocker was not prepared for college football. At 225 pounds, he was too small to be a tight end too slow to be a wide receiver. Recognizing as much, he redshirted that fall and worked to add bulk.

Stocker played sparingly as a 230-pounder in 2007. He started all 12 games as a 235-pound sophomore in 2008 but caught just 13 passes. He hit the 245-pound mark in 2009, however, and blossomed into one of the SEC's better tight ends - catching 29 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns.

Having added another 10 pounds since last fall, he now checks in at 6-6 and 255. Stocker and blocker aren't such an ironic pairing anymore.

"The added weight and strength is huge," he said. "When I came in I was like 225 pounds and my strength just wasn't there yet. It was really hard for me to hold up. Now I'm 255, and my numbers in the weight room have gone way up. My power clean has gone from 265 to 350 pounds. That has helped me tremendously here on the field."

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney doubled as tight ends coach last fall, and he helped Stocker to progress in an assortment of areas.

"I'm understanding the details of my position - running routes, blocking techniques and that type stuff," the player said. "I'm keying in on power-stepping instead of skating around the block, positioning, giving a head fake at the top of my route versus just running through it or whatever."

Chaney has a little more input into the offensive system this year than he did under Lane Kiffin last year. Stocker likes the changes he sees.

"It's kind of the same offense but with Coach Chaney's twist to it," he said. "It's a lot of different terminology. It's kind of like learning a different language - putting different words with different meanings - but it's all kind of the same type thing. Football's football, when you get right down to it."

That may be true, but the tight end's role varies greatly from program to program. Stocker really likes the way Tennessee coaches are using their tight ends.

"They let us get out in space and give us the opportunity to make double moves," he said. "You're not always running a 10-yard out. Sometimes you'll run 10-yard out and up or a 10-yard out and spin back in ... whatever. It gives us an opportunity to make some moves and get in some space."

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