Stevens: Blackshear's Tight Ends Need To Catch & Block
Aug. 15, 2011
LOBOS IN RUIDOSO
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
They'll be where they are supposed to be. They'll catch it. Now, how about that blocking stuff?
"A lot of tight ends are wide receivers, who have outgrown that position and became tight ends," said Blackshear. "For them to put a hand on the ground (3-point stance) and block a 265-pound defensive end doesn't come natural for them.
"That's something that has to be worked on more so than the pass catching which comes natural to them."
Blackshear is one of the more animated coaches on Mike Locksley's staff. It's fair to say he probably has more reason to be animated when UNM is working on the run game rather than the passing game.
His tight ends need to catch the ball. They also need to block. Like Blackshear said, the pass catching comes natural. Blocking is hard work.
"These guys want to do things at a high level, including blocking, and they seem to be listening to the words coming out of my mouth," said Blackshear. "They probably hear my voice in their sleep at night, but that's OK, I want them to.
"I stress fundamentals and technique and effort, but these guys don't have a problem with effort. They are high-effort guys. They come to practice with their lunch pails and they work hard to get better."
Said tight end Andrew Aho: "Coach is a tough-love kind of guy. He knows what he's doing and he wants the best for us. He pushes us to be the best we can."
Blackshear's pack of Lobo tight ends is a good one with 6-foot-6 junior Lucas Reed and Aho, a 6-3 sophomore, leading a pack of three freshmen: 6-2 David Georges, 6-4 Zach Boerboom and 6-2 Michael Wilkinson.
Reed is the headliner of the group: a former freshman All-American and All-Mountain West selection, who is one of the top NFL prospects in the Mountain. He led UNM in receiving yards-per-game (41.7), touchdowns (5) and yards-per-reception (13.9) in 2010. He caught 33 passes for 459 yards.
Reed likes the fact that Coach Blackshear is more concerned about the stats and progress of 2011.
"I might have done well last season, but that doesn't make any difference with coach," said Reed. "He is pushing me just as hard as any other season. He pushes us all every day and I think as a unit we have become stronger."
The Lobos are loaded with talent on the edge with a handful of speedy receivers. But will that cut down on passes to the tight ends or make it easier for them to get open?
"I think our role will increase more and more," said Reed. "Even with our strong receiving corps, I expect us to be in the mix. The receivers might open some passes for us and we'll open some passes for them."
Said Aho: "We are trying to prove we are good enough to be involved in this offense and I think we are doing a pretty good job."
Being involved on offense as a tight end means you excel in both aspects of the position - catching and blocking.
When it comes to blocking, Blackshear is definitely a coach who has been there and done that. He was a four-year letterman at the University of Florida with 28 starts at the offensive guard position. He was awarded the Fergie Ferguson Award as the senior with the most leadership, character and courage.
Reed's blocking has improved in leaps and bounds since his freshman season. That skill also is important to any tight end looking to crack an NFL lineup.
"More than anything, blocking for me is technique and mental," said Reed. "You have to do everything right on a block. You have to think about everything, but not think at all. There is a lot of detail that goes into a block and we have to make it muscle memory over time."
Of course, what most tight ends like to do is pull down passes and get into the end zone. Reed did exactly that on Monday taking a pass over the middle and taking the ball into score.
"I'm not worried about our pass catching because these guys can catch the ball and they run good routes," said Blackshear. "They'll be where they are supposed to be.
"What I want to see is that we can run the ball with them in the game. We're not where we want to be yet, but I know we'll get there. They are hard-working guys and they are doing all the little things it takes to be successful."