Interview with TE Coach Jon Embree

Jon Embree, the UCLA tight ends coach, has many more options this year at tight end with the addition of three true freshmen. He talks about Marcedes Lewis, and how the youngsters are doing, and what roles they'll play on the team...

Tight ends coach Jon Embree finds himself with a lot of talent at tight end this year, albeit mostly very young and inexperienced talent.

He talked to us about the state of the tight end position Tuesday.

First, tell me about the development of Marcedes Lewis...

"I've seen a lot of different things from Marcedes this fall. He's taken his game to the next level, like he needs to do, as far as how he's practicing, his attitude, about trying to dominate every play, and trying to practice perfect. That's what I've been trying to get him to do, catch every ball and make every block, and that's what he's out there starting to do. So he's really made good strides in that."

The rap somewhat has been on his blocking. How is he doing at that?

"He's fine blocking. He'll be fine. I heard that about his blocking, but I thought last year he did a good job. When a team can run the ball like we could, and we were an outside zone team, if you can run it outside, your tight end is doing his job.

"With Marcedes it really hasn't been about blocking, but getting his pad level down. That can be hard for a guy 6-6, to get that leverage and play low. But he really has improved in that area."

How has J.J. Hair done so far in fall?

"J.J.'s had a very good camp so far. He's finding his niche right now, being able to help me out at both spots, the "Y" and the "U". He's doing a good job catching the ball and running routes. He's a little bit quicker than he has been in the past. I look forward to J.J. getting a little more playing time and helping us."

Do you see him working more as a blocking tight end than a receiver?

"Yeah, but he's getting to the point that he's getting better in the passing game so he can help in that case, too."

How has true freshman Logan Paulsen done so far?

"He's been doing very well. He hasn't played a lot of football. I have to communicate with him differently. I assume he knows what I'm talking about and he doesn't. He played a lot of soccer, and I really don't know how long he's actually played football. But he's physical, he runs very well, and he's figuring out some things on the run game. I look for him to help us this year."

The question with Paulsen when he was getting recruited is whether he'd be able to put on weight, and it looks like he already has...

"He has. What I'm asking him to do for us in the run game he can do with what he weighs. He's functional enough to do it. So I think he can help us this year."

So he's strong enough to hold down the blocking responsibility in the run game?


The last few days it seems like it's started to click for him...

"It is. He and Ryan Moya, it's all started to click for them. Those two have made a lot of plays. Moya's strong suit is being a heck of a receiver. He's coming in the run game as far as his blocking. But he's a difference-maker in the pass game. He's a mismatch for a lot of people, especially when he and Marcedes are on the field together. He's got to keep coming in the run game, some on-the-line stuff. Part of it is he tries a little too hard, instead of letting his technique help him. So I have to get that habit out of him.

"And Adam Heater has done a good job. You can tell, I'm really pleased. All three of those guys I'm really excited about. I think all three can help us. We have some depth now with (walk-on) Tyler Holland and Matt Raney. I feel really good about our situation."

Is Adam Heater even a better pass-catcher than advertised?

"Right. He is. But you know, he came from a running offense, so his ability to understand zone and man, and running certain routes, he's not used to doing. He basically blocked the whole time, so he's behind those other guys in the passing game. But he's ahead of them in the running game. But like you said, he catches better than most people thought. Like I said, all three of those guys I'm counting on being able to help us, finding a role for them and let them take that roll and go with it."

Talk about Moya and how he presents such a mismatch when he's in the game with Lewis...

"It's because he can flat run. He can run. So that's the great thing about it. When you have him and number 19 on the field that opens up a lot of possibilities for you, because you can do some things, in the passing game and the run game. If you put a DB on him, with him being bigger, now you have to be able to hold up against the run also. It's going to be a lot of fun."

So, you have a lot of options now?

"Yeah, and that's a good thing."

How many of the true freshmen do you see not redshirting this season?

"In a perfect world, I'd say two will play this season and one would redshirt. If I used two of them, it'd give me really good depth and, like I said, many different options."

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