College football is, as fans have seen lately, played on an ever-changing landscape. Coaches are constantly changing their schemes once flavor-of-the-month offensive schemes have now found their way into the common place in college football.
Coaches in the NFL are often accused of stealing ideas from college coaches and applying game planning for football on Sundays. Believe it or not, the college football coaches are rarely accused of committing larcenous acts involving ideas used by NFL coaches. The Wildcat has been adopted by professional coaches, the spread offense has been used by professional coaches and the option is now rooting its way into professional offensive game plans. What might the college game adapt from the NFL? How about the use of the tight end?
Yes, the tight end has always been a significant part of offenses. A quality tight end is often very difficult to acquire as they must be so versatile. A tight end is asked not only to catch the football, but they must also be used effectively in the running game as a blocker. The tight end can often be called upon to block the opponents best pass-rushing tight end and beat a safety or linebacker when running a pass route. If your tight end is unable to do so, the opposition can more easily predict what play will be run by the personnel that is on the field. If there is a blocking tight end in the game, the threat of a pass is eliminated, and if a pass-catching tight end is on the field, the pass rush from that side of the field may be a more legitimate threat. The NFL has gotten creative with their personnel at the tight end position and we have now seen that translate to the position in college football.
In recent history, the Big Ten has seen top tight ends from the Wisconsin Badgers and Northwestern Wildcats. This season, the Kwalick Clark Tight End of the Year Award was given to Michigan Wolverine Devin Funchess. He was given the award over Iowa Hawkeye C.J. Fiedorowicz. Both young men possess massive size and impressive pass catching abilities. Fiedorowicz has award worthy talent and potential at the position.
What Funchess has over Fiedorowicz is his undeniable athletic ability. Fiedorowicz is the type of tight end that NFL coaches and general managers started to draft and develop when Fiedorowicz was three years old. Now college coaches have seen the impact that tight ends with the versatility that Funchess have and the impact that it has in the NFL, and college football coaches want that skill set made available to them in their game planning.
Funchess has what many refer to as the power forward/basketball skill set. The same skills that tight end Tony Gonzalez had when he changed the NFL game when Funchess was a young child. Funchess, of course, has a long way to go if he desires to be compared to the tight ends in today’s NFL. Tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have set the bar with their size, speed and strength to hold a block. Hopefully, Funchess is the first of many versatile tight ends to make an impact in the Big Ten.