Miami Hurricanes Preview- Tight Ends

Used to be when NFL teams needed a tight end, they turned to the “U.”  Hurricanes fans have been spoiled by the riches of a haven of tight ends, and the mismatches they’d create every Saturday in the fall.  Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow Jr., Kevin Everett, Greg Olsen, and Jimmy Graham have provided an unbelievable transition year to year and defined a new tradition at Miami.

Alas, perhaps Miami lucked into Jimmy Graham, luring him from the basketball court, and not having recruited the next in line.  And the drop-off showed the last two years.  In 2010 Miami tight ends combined for 15 catches, 206 yards.  Last season improved under Al Golden, but not by much with tight ends producing 28 receptions for 266 yards.

Clearly the focus of the Miami offense had shifted to the outside receivers under Randy Shannon.  In 2009, even with two future NFLers Jimmy Graham and Dedrick Epps (combined 36-460), the wide receivers were the emphasis of the passing attack.   You play the hand you are dealt, and even though Golden offered before his first season that the tight ends would be more involved, and they were, clearly they were far from a focus.

The promise of TE Chase Ford moves along with graduation, after a disappointing career at Miami.  That leaves sophomore Clive Walford, junior Asante Cleveland, junior Dyron Dye, and junior Corey White to pick up the slack.

Tight ends Clive Walford and Asante Cleveland are expected to get more targets this season as will the running backs. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he expects production to double from the tight ends this year.  “We’ve added some schemes for them to get them more involved, some true reads where they become the primary guy.  The second thing we’ve done is we’ve really watched them develop and grow and seen them become guys that can catch and run.”

Asante Cleveland beefed up in the offseason adding 15 pounds to his frame, now measuring in at 6’5″, 270.  He was named the starter in the spring despite only registering one catch last year.  Clive Walford led the group last season with (18-172-1).  He is fast enough to split the safeties and big enough (6’4″, 250) to carve out space between linebackers.  Walford will share playing time with Cleveland.

Dyron Dye, who was named in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, is a former high profile recruit brought to Miami to play along the defensive line.  Al Golden moved him to tight end last fall where Dye didn’t play much, nor did he register a reception.

Corey White (6’6″, 270) adds depth to the position, but won’t see the field unless there are injuries.

The Canes are pretty far on the talent they’ve had in the past at the tight end position, but they may be the most productive group in years.  I’d take Fisch at his word because of the loss of talent the Canes have endured on offense.  They lost Tommy Streeter, Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, and Lamar Miller at the end of the year.  That’s 3 of the top 4 WR, and their top back.  They’ll have to utilize their experienced tight ends to offset the youth at wide receiver.

Double the production might be the goal, but getting close to it, say around 60 catches for 700 yards seems likely.