Friday, July 25, 2008

Vanderbilt Football Preview: TE Breakdown

The Sports VU's football position-by-position preview continues today with a look at the tight ends. Here's a recap of what we've analyzed this week:

Tuesday: Quarterback
Wednesday: Running back
Thursday: Wide Receiver

STRENGTHS: Size and athleticism. With this personnel, I'd expect the tight end to play a much larger role in the offense. At 6'6", 270 pounds, senior Jake Bradford is a huge target with good hands, while redshirt freshman Brandon Barden and redshirt sophomore Justin Green are big-time athletes. Barden is 6'5", 245 pounds, and was a highly-touted recruit after leading Lincoln County (Ga.) to consecutive Class A championships as a quarterback (Steven Bright anyone?). Green arrived at Vanderbilt unpolished, having played just one year of football after concentrating on track and basketball, but has all the tools to be a dynamic pass-catcher. Throw in the 6'7", 255-pound Austin Monahan, who was one of just three true freshmen to play in '07, and you have quite an impressive quartet.

WEAKNESSES: Experience. Despite their potential, the four tight ends have combined for a grand total of nine catches. Whether they will be able to pick up blitzes and beat SEC linebackers over the middle is yet to be seen.

Is the raw, but talented Barden ready to contribute at the SEC level? Will Green make another leap in his third year with the program? Will offensive coordinator Ted Cain feature a lot of two tight-end sets? While it's an athletic bunch, how does the group rate as run-blockers?

Without Earl Bennett, expect to hear the tight ends' names called more often. Barden and Green, in particular, have the potential to pose match-up problems for the opposition. There's no question that the tight end position should be improved in '08, but it's too early to tell by how much.

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