NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, August 17, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Tight end position takes on
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Drew (top) and senior Jay Sonnhalter are at the
forefront of a group of East Carolina tight ends
whose assignments will be expanded in the 2007
season. (ECU SID photo)
The common knock on the East Carolina offense is
inexperience and ambiguity in the skill positions.
No one can say with certainty who will be
carrying the ball the most effectively, or which receiver will make the
impact plays, or even how young starting quarterback Rob Kass will
But this much is clear: The Pirates have an
opportunity to reinvent the tight end’s role and amplify its impact this
For the first time since he arrived three years
ago, Skip Holtz can look at his stable of tight ends and envision a dynamic
plan for them, a sheath of plays that includes tight end passing routes,
sets with multiple tight ends and innovative blocking schemes.
That door is opening because four tight ends
will be listed on the ECU depth chart. That number is a luxury compared to
past lineups of two or even just one athlete at that position.
“All of a sudden, I feel like we have a chance
to really play a tight end,” Holtz said. “The first couple of years we sat
down and said, ‘Is our first tight end better than our third receiver?’ And
he wasn’t, so we played three wides.
"And we’d say, ‘Is our
first tight end better than our fourth receiver?’ and he wasn’t, so we
played four wides.”
The undisputed leader of
the tight end corps is senior Jay Sonnhalter, who caught four passes for 59
yards and one touchdown last year.
Joining Sonnhalter at the
top of the ranks is junior Davon Drew, a converted quarterback who may get
the starting nod this year for a 2006 campaign that featured 16 receptions
for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re trying to work
us more into the offense,” said Drew, who was named a preseason
All-Conference USA selection. “I know at practice we’ve been taking on more
reps and working on different things.”
Two new faces – junior
transfer J.R. Kraemer and redshirt freshman Kevin Gidry – round out the
tight end selections. With that many talented players working with position
coach Phil Petty during camp, the drills and plays are taking on new and
challenging facets, Sonnhalter said, and that expanded repertoire can only
lead to a more varied offensive menu.
“It seems like we’re
doing a whole lot with the offense, doing a lot of different motions,”
Sonnhalter said. “It’s fun, because we get to go in motion, run routes, run
side routes. It’s challenging us, learning new movements and new plays, but
that’s what we want.”
The Pirate coaches have
high hopes for Kraemer, who learned the college game at Illinois and sat out
last year to comply with NCAA transfer regulations. Kraemer, an Eagle Scout
who played in five games during his only active season at Illinois, is
anxious to move out of the shadows of the scout team into the offensive
But Kraemer, like his
tight end teammates, knows that no one is making any promises about pass
plays or other tight end theatrics. Even if the Pirates are installing more
tight end options during daily workouts, the plays that actually work come
game day are the ones that will earn a place in ECU’s repertoire.
“They’re not concerned
about it, I can promise you that,” Petty said of the potential elevated
visibility of tight ends. “It’s just, whatever it takes to win.”
order a tough call
Some media reports
predicted that Holtz would release a depth chart after Tuesday’s workout,
but he said that he needed more time – and one more scrimmage – to evaluate
the contenders for each position.
“It’s real hard for me at
this point to say, he’s beat out him, or he’s beat out him,” Holtz said.
“That’s what this scrimmage Saturday is going to be about.
“I don’t want to release
a depth chart just to say we did it. Right now, I can’t justify to a lot of
the guys in the locker room that they’re three and the other guy is two. I
can’t justify that when they haven’t had the opportunity to earn that on the
Holtz said that he hopes
to circulate a depth chart on Sunday.
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08/17/2007 02:56:17 AM