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August 19, 2009

Transformation Of The Tight End

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Split out to the far left, the receiver ran a fade route to the corner of the end zone. He'd beaten the cornerback to the corner and if the ball thrown to him had been more on target, it could've been a touchdown.

It's a typical play for a wide receiver, not so much for redshirt tight end Jack Doyle. But Doyle might as well get used to it. With an explosiveness of talent coming from the tight end position, WKU plans on using its tight ends more this year than in recent memory and Doyle has arguably stood out the most this fall.

"He's about as versatile as they get," coach David Elson said. "We haven't had one like him here since I've been here. He and Tristan Jones are very similar. Jack's been the one that's been practicing, so we've had a chance to see what he can do. We can do similar things with Tristan, we feel like. Jack has great ball skills and timing of going up and getting it, great hands overall, great route runner, 245 pounds. He's gonna be a good friend for our quarterbacks."

Doyle has put on a show thus far, with his ability to block, run deep routes or run any short route. He's caught passes all over the field.

"It's been kinda easy, but in high school I did it a little bit," Doyle said. "Mainly in high school, I just blocked. It's been a good adjustment from on scout team last year. I had to play receiver some times and all those different things. Redshirting really helped me."

Doyle has seen more reps thus far with Jones, a sophomore, returning from a shoulder injury. But Jones has donned a yellow jersey this week, signaling that he's not available to tackle, but has still participated in the majority of practice.

"I'm feeling great," Jones said. "The yellow jersey's just a precaution right now. They don't want me to have any setbacks. I'm way ahead of the game of what they expect me to be. I'm just a little mature, I don't fall on it wrong on accident, just trying to save me for Tennessee."

With Doyle and Jones, the Toppers have plans of maximizing the use of their tight ends, with an array of formations and plays that favor them.

"The thing we recognize is that having a tight end in the game or two tight ends in the game widens the flanks for the defense, which takes a little pressure off your tackles, in terms of pass rush," tight ends coach Mike Chism said. "It takes a little pressure off the front line, in terms of stretching a play wide or that kind of thing. That's gonna bring a different aspect to our offense."

Slowly emerging has been Ed Hazelett, a 6-foot-7, 278-pound true freshman. It's unclear at this point whether he'll be redshirted or not.

"The dog days of camp are creeping up on not just him, but all those freshmen," Chism said. "It's something that they've just gotta mentally push through. In terms of assignment-wise, that's probably where he's a little behind, but it's his first time through this stuff. Where these other guys have had more time learning the system, we've just gotta get him caught up."

With junior Rod Johnson sidelined with a torn meniscus, Hazelett uncertain and Jones still getting healthy, it's been Doyle's chance to make a name for himself. He's certainly let the defenders he regularly plows over know who he is. But Doyle doesn't always have to take on contact.

"It depends on the guy, really," he said. "If I see that I can make a cut and go, that's what I do, just make a cut and go as hard as I can. If someone's in my way, I try to go over them, really."

Right now, Doyle is making a strong case to be the top tight end, but if WKU is to have success and truly get the most out of the position, Doyle will have to have a little help.

"The jury's still out there," Elson said. "We were hoping to have Rod and have those three guys that we had in the spring. We didn't know if we'd have to have Ed or not, but it's looking like we'll need Ed to step up. Jack, if we just can go with one, we're gonna be just fine with Jack. But we know we need more than one."


Check out more on InsideHilltopperSports.com's Facebook page for photos from today's two-a-day practice.





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