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July 25, 2007

Rucker, Coffman give Mizzou dynamic TE duo

SAN ANTONIO Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman had to break family tradition to find their perfect home.

Rucker could have followed his brother Mike to Nebraska, where he was an All-American defensive end.

Coffman could have followed both of his parents to Kansas State, where his father was a standout tight end before his NFL career and where his younger brother now plays quarterback.

Instead, the two big pass-catchers decided to stay home in Missouri and forge their own paths. In the process, the two have become the most productive tight-end tandem in the country.

"It's pretty unique what we have," Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. "We have two of the best tight ends in the nation. I think because they're both 6-6, they both weigh 240-250, they both have great speed. They can make plays. They're unselfish."

The combination of the senior Rucker and the junior Coffman promises to give opposing defenses headaches again.

The two were on the field together last year as much as 80 percent of the time, giving defenses two 6-6 targets to worry about.

"They're like receivers," Nebraska linebacker Bo Ruud said. "I treat them more like receivers than tight ends. You've got to be aware of where they are at all times."

Making things even tougher, Pinkel isn't afraid to tinker with their position in the spread offense.

"They move around a lot," Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said. "It's hard to tell what they are. What position are they going to play them at today? It always causes problems."

As defenses were kept guessing, Rucker and Coffman kept catching passes. Coffman and Rucker were first and second on the team in receptions, combining for 111 receptions, 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The tight end duo helped Missouri to an 8-5 record last year, tying its best season under Pinkel. Rucker was a first-team All-Big-12 tight end, according to the coaches. Coffman was one of two second-teamers.

"If (quarterback) Chase Daniel was here he would tell you that those kind of targets are fun to throw the football to," Pinkel said. "A lot of times we can put them in mismatches. We have a way to move people around to do that."

Although the two often are on the field at the same time, one can certainly appreciate the strengths of the other.

Coffman played receiver at Raymore-Peculiar High in Missouri, leaving him somewhat raw at tight end early in career at Missouri. Coffman said he has watched Rucker to study the tight end's blocking abilities.

"One of the things is coming in I haven't played in three-point, tight-end stance," Coffman said. "I'm trying to get better at blocking."

On the other hand, Rucker admires the wide-receiver qualities Coffman brings to the position.

"He was a receiver in high school so he has a lot more experience at it," Rucker said. "He does a good job of going up and getting the ball."

With both Rucker and Coffman playing so many snaps together, it has created a healthy competition between them over the last two seasons.

Coffman doesn't want Rucker to look good without out Coffman doing the same, and vice versa.

"In order to get on the field you have to compete with the other guy," Rucker said. "It's all friendly competition. We pick each other up and make plays. That's what we try to do."

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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