Chase Coffman quite a catch

The ex-Missouri star talks about his dad — former Packers great Paul Coffman — injuries and the spread offense, and Packers GM Ted Thompson weighs in on Coffman's extraordinary pass-catching ability.

Chase Coffman posted some mind-boggling numbers during his four-year stint at Missouri.

Still, when it comes to family bragging rights, Coffman gives the nod to his dad.

"He's got me as of right now," Chase said of his father, former Packers tight end Paul Coffman, while at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month. "He has 11 years in the NFL right now, and I haven't started yet. Hopefully, I'll be able to pass him in a little while."

During a seven-year run in Green Bay, Paul Coffman was one of the NFL's elite tight ends. Even on a team featuring James Lofton and John Jefferson as playmaking receivers, three-time Pro Bowler Coffman posted team highs of 11 touchdown catches in 1983 and nine in 1984.

From 1979 through 1985, Coffman caught 322 passes for the Packers, a figure that ranks ninth in team history and first among tight ends.

If only he had the benefit of playing in the spread offense.

Chase Coffman, who at 6-foot-6 looks down on his dad by 3 inches, caught a whopping 247 passes in Missouri's wide-open attack. Chase, a tight end in name only because he split out wide most of the time and has barely any experience as an in-line blocker, concluded his stellar career by winning the Mackey Award as college football's best tight end after catching 90 passes for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 90 catches would have set a school record if not for Jeremy Maclin hauling in 102 balls.

"He's an extraordinarily gifted pass catcher and has been for some time," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said at the Scouting Combine. "It's a big step. Now, he played in an offense that was a spread offense, he was officially their tight end but they did not line him up in a three-point stance, they didn't use him to block. So, one of the big questions that we'll have going forward — all NFL teams will — is how well can he assimilate himself into a real tight end as far as how we use tight ends in the NFL."

As far as catching the ball, there are no doubts about Coffman. It didn't matter who he played against, he produced. He had his best single-game performance of the season against Texas, with 12 catches, 140 yards and one touchdown.

"He's a gifted athlete," Thompson said. "He can contort his body and make all kinds of difficult catches. He does the one-handed thing, he does the whole bit. He's a very gifted player and I'm sure somebody's going to figure out how to (utilize his unique skills)."

The blocking, however, is an issue teams will have to take into account. So will Coffman's injury history, which has limited his already not-so-blazing speed. As a junior, an ankle injury kept him out of the Big 12 title game, he needed surgery to clean bone spurs out of a foot between his junior and senior seasons, and he missed two games during his senior season with turf toe. Plus, he broke a toe in his left foot during the last offensive play of Missouri's Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern, which required surgery prevented him from running at the Combine.

He said he hopes to be healthy enough to run at his pro day on March 19. Nonetheless, he knows teams are wondering about his ability to stay on the field because of the frequent foot problems.

"Two of the four years I played I had a couple of problems, but I played through those. I missed a couple of games because of them," he said. "But that's just one of those things that unfortunately happened. I'm going to keep working hard to get stronger and faster and more flexible and whatever I can do to be injury-proof."

The injuries, along with the eye-popping Combine numbers posted by South Carolina's Jared Cook and Rice's James Casey, may have pushed Coffman out of the second round, according to Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber. That increases the odds of Coffman getting to play in the same stadium where he watched his father from the Packers' sideline.

The Packers have two third-round picks because of the Brett Favre trade, and tight end is a position they might be looking to upgrade. Donald Lee fell back after a solid 2007, Jermichael Finley didn't contribute until the end of his rookie season and the team didn't tender restricted free agent Tory Humphrey. For all of the Packers' defensive issues, imagine Aaron Rodgers lining up with Coffman and Finley at tight end and Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones at receiver.

That scenario would make Paul Coffman a happy father. He treasured his time in Green Bay. The 1994 Packers Hall of Fame inductee has kept in regular contact with Thompson over the last couple of years.

"I think he has a great head on his shoulders," Paul told our Tyler Dunne in a fantastic feature in the March issue of Packer Report magazine. "His goal since he was 10 years old was to play in the NFL. Not to sound cocky, but when he laid out his plan when he was 10 years old, that's how he planned it out."

In seven weeks, Chase Coffman's NFL dream will come true. And he knows his dad is the man to thank after spending countless hours in the yard learning from one of the best to ever wear the Green and Gold.

"He knows where I'm coming from," Chase said. "He didn't get a scholarship (to Kansas State), he didn't get drafted in the NFL, but he definitely had a lot of experience and knows what's happening. He helps me out, telling me, 'Don't worry about this, don't worry about that,' just keep doing the things you've done to get me here in the first place."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.


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