Ever since I was young, I've been drawn to tight ends. There was always something about a one-handed snag by Bubba Franks, or Clive Walford pummeling defenders en route to the end zone, that gave me a shot of adrenaline. They're the tanks strategically placed behind enemy lines, and when given the opportunity, can devastate enemy ranks.
At the University of Miami, we've been blessed with players celebrated for doing just that. The aforementioned tight ends, Bubba Franks and Clive Walford, one who's already done his damage in the NFL while the other is just beginning, offer only a glimpse at the long list of successful Hurricanes. In CBS Sports' The Real Tight End U, they were right to tag the University of Miami as "Tight End U." Hurricanes' tight ends have accounted for 368 NFL starts and 7 Pro Bowls.
Another list w/ #Canes on top. @cbssports names Miami "Tight End U". #TheU #WeSTILLOutchea https://t.co/Dx7RSzauZW pic.twitter.com/o9CstILXRD— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) April 19, 2016
But fortunately, for myself, the Hurricanes, and fans like you, that list is continuing to grow. There are players on the current roster that show promise and deserve excitement.
In the Hurricanes list of great tight ends, there are players in various molds. Bubba Franks was big and physical and would barrel into defenders; Jimmy Graham is dynamic and so versatile that he can play on the line and out wide; and the players on Miami's current roster can range anywhere between the two and have the potential to do more.
Standish Dobard is the Hurricanes' traditional, big-bodied receiving threat. While little was seen from Dobard in the Spring Game, due to an undisclosed injury to his left leg, he's a known commodity by now and is entering his senior year at Miami.
Christopher Herndon IV, a tight end renaissance man, if you will, can line up anywhere. In 2015, Herndon was placed in the slot and on the line. Now, in 2016, with Mark Richt at the helm and a new system in place, Herndon is taking reps at H-back with the potential to be a fullback, in addition to the previously listed positions. He'll likely cover each of these positions, though if a worthy fullback comes along (fullback Gage Batten remains out until the fall), his time there may be sparse. Chris Herndon is fast, strong, and a great receiving target regardless of where he lines up, and is poised for a great season.
David Njoku is the player opposing teams lose sleep over. He's so versatile, capable of playing any receiving position on the offense. He's crisp in his route running, has great ball skills, and is dangerous after the catch. And as seen many times, he has the potential to run over defenders. That's what makes David Njoku special. Athletic tight ends don't normally steamroll defenders, but Njoku is a rare talent that packs strength, agility, and quickness. Oh yeah, and in 2015 he was named to the All-ACC Indoor Second Team for men's high jump.
If you watched Miami's Spring Game at Lockhart Stadium, you saw tight end Christopher Herndon have quite a day. In his recap of the scrimmage for State of the U, Cameron Underwood was impressed by Herndon, noting that every aspect of his game was on point. Here's what Cam had to say:
"Christopher Herndon was the star TE of the day. He had 6 catches for 76 yards and 2 TDs, which is a solid day, if you were wondering. Herndon showed everything you need to see from a TE: blocking, crisp routes, good hands, and, once he caught the ball, the ability to punish defenders. He ran through 2 defenders on his 1st TD, and he ran over Corn Elder on his 2nd.
I still think Njoku is the better TE because he's a physical FREAK and was the leading receiver at the end of the year, but Herndon isn't far behind him. Look for Miami to utilize the pair together frequently this season."
Along with potential and versatility, there's good evidence for better things to come in 2016 with Christopher Herndon, Standish Dobard, and David Njoku all logging playing time over the past seasons.
After playing in three games his freshman year (where a redshirt should've been used instead), Christopher Herndon came on strong in 2015 with 18 receptions for 237 yards. David Njoku led the tight ends last season with 21 catches for 362 yards and an impressive 17.2 yards-per-catch average. And Standish Dobard, the oldest but least productive of the three, has caught 16 passes for 252 yards during his time at Miami.
For 2016, the Hurricanes have seasoned players at tight end. Along with being battle-tested, they have versatility and can play several positions on offense. Nearly every breed of tight end is at the Hurricanes' disposal and the possibilities, and potential, are endless. These are all reasons to be excited about the Miami Hurricanes' tight ends this upcoming season.
What say you, ‘Canes fans? Are you excited for Miami's tight end play in 2016? Should we pump the brakes? Share your views below in the comments section.