Countdown to Miami Hurricanes Football 2014: Previewing the Tight Ends

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

As the 2014 season draws near, SOTU breaks down each position on the field for you player by player, so you can go into game one knowing the team as best you can.

Miami will open the season in the not so distant future, and to help you prepare for what is sure to be a great year, we are back to preview each position on the team. We will let you know who is back, who is new, and how each player projects for the 2014 season.

Tight end progression (total yards receiving)

2009

2010

*2011

2012

2013

460

236

266

511

586

*Denotes Al Golden's first year as Head Coach, Clive Walford's freshman year

Projected Starters

Clive Walford: Senior, Height: 6'4" Weight: 263

Setting the mark for tight end receiving yards at 450+ in 2012, Clive Walford began a trend that aims to continue throughout the 2014 season. As third on the team in receiving yards in 2013, it's no question that Walford is a key piece for the offense, and that's without complimenting his run blocking skills. Walford was by far the most polished blocker at tight end this past year. The Hurricanes' use of a fullback is scarce, and more so with the departure of Maurice Hagens. It'll be Clive Walford and company leading the charge as they escort a Miami tailback down the field.

Beau Sandland: Senior, Height: 6'6" Weight: 255

Appearing in all 13 games last season, Beau Sandland has amassed enough experience to be an integral part of the tight end rotation moving forward. Sandland's major asset is his skill set as a receiver and is best known in the junior college ranks for his relentlessness to be brought down after the catch. Beau Sandland has an increased knowledge of the playbook, added weight, and is poised to be a more prominent weapon in Miami's offense.

Top Reserves

Standish Dobard: Sophomore, Height: 6'4" Weight: 260

Standish Dobard earned repeated praise from Al Golden during Spring practices. Which is reassuring considering the departure of Clive Walford and Beau Sandland at the end of 2014. Dobard has the size and talent that if need be he can step onto the field without missing a beat. Here's what Offensive Coordinator James Coley had to say:

"Tough. He's got that Louisiana in him... If you're going to squat on him while running a route he's going to run you over, no one is going to call that, and he won't fall, he will make you pay twice."

Jake O'Donnell: Sophomore, Height: 6'7" Weight: 255

Originally committing to Miami to play at defensive end, Jake O'Donnell has volleyed around the Hurricanes' depth chart to his final placement on the offense. There's no reason to believe another switch is to be made with the influx of talent at DE, and Jake's effort at tight end strengthens that notion. O'Donnell impressed coaches in the Spring and is proving to be a reliable asset on offense moving forward.
*Jake O'Donnell suffered an injury during camp, though a full recovery is expected by fall practices.

David Njoku: Freshman, Height: 6'4" Weight: 220 - 3-star - HS Highlights

Whether Njoku is to play tight end or wide receiver is a matter of opinion until the coaches appoint a specific position to this versatile athlete. David Njoku has enough physical ability to defend being pigeonholed into one category over the other. Watch Njoku's highlights. You already have, but do it once more.

Chris Herndon: Freshman, Height: 6'4" Weight: 240 - 3-star - HS Highlights

Herndon comes to Miami as a pure tight end with great ability in the passing game. For a complete breakdown on Herndon see Joe Garcia's Recruiting Breakdown Bonanza: Tale of the Tape For the Newest Canes!

Overall Analysis

This is a group on the verge of becoming a constant threat. Clive Walford and Beau Sandland enter their senior year and have yet to leave a mark worthy of their capabilities. Flashes of greatness, reliable hands were obvious last season from Walford. Clive's only downside was the scarcity he was depended upon in the red zone. Sandland, well, Beau's a force that desperately needs to be seen on offense. Not that we're lacking playmaking ability, but because there's a physicality Sandland offers that the Hurricanes haven't shown in recent years. As well, Sandland's abilities allow for a very lethal combination alongside Walford in two-tight end sets. This creates a much more diverse set of play calls for James Coley in short yardage situations, ensuring that the opposing defense must respect both pass and run.

Before Ryan Williams sustained his injury there was a visible effort throughout practices to involve the tight ends more in the passing game. I don't expect that approach to change with whoever the Canes decide to place under center. Each choice at quarterback is either young or relatively new to the Miami offense. Large bodied targets at tight end are capable of providing a much needed crutch as their starting QB progresses.

Stay tuned for more player profiles as we countdown to Louisville on Labor Day.

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