Inside the Gameplan: Flexing out the tight end

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One of the quieter stories coming out of fall camp has been the deployment of Texas’ tight ends. With All-Big 12 first team “fullback” Andrew Beck moving on from that position the Longhorns are likely to be less physical and effective blocking opponents from that spot in 2019. The players that have been through both spring and fall camp (or more) and are poised to contribute in 2019 are Cade Brewer, Reese Leitao, and Jared Wiley, each one more inclined to help as passers rather than blockers than the last. That’s okay though, Texas can adjust their offense easily enough to accommodate the changing skill sets in that room.

If you watch big time college football these days there are two programs that really stand out as being on the cutting edge of modern offensive strategy; the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners. Both teams laid a whooping on Nick Saban’s 2018 Crimson Tide defense, both teams did so by leaning towards the passing attack, and both relied mostly on four-wide sets to allow them to quickly find targets before Bama nose tackle Quinnen Williams could disrupt the play.

It took the Sooners much of the first half to sort out how to slow down Williams and get their offense rolling but once they did, the Tide had to lean on the combination of their own offensive firepower and Oklahoman defensive impotence to close out the game. The Tigers blew the doors off the Tide pretty early in the game.

A consistent theme for each of these two teams is that they’ll play a great deal of “11” personnel with a tight end, or even “21” personnel for the Sooners with a TE/WR hybrid and then a TE/FB hybrid on the field. For either team all of those players are flexing out as often as not so they can create 2×2 and 3×1 formations that present four receivers on the line at all times that can threaten to run down the field on vertical routes. It’s hard to beat vertical passing for generating the elusive “50+ yard” gains that Texas lacked from their offense in 2018.

Texas flexed out Beck quite often in 2018 in order to get a good blocker on the perimeter or to play games with defensive alignments. Opponents had to either match him with a linebacker and remove that player from the box or else “waste” a better coverage player on Beck while Lil’Jordan Humphrey aligned tighter to the box to run a route on a linebacker. The Sooners and Tigers both use that same trick fairly often but they sent their blocking TEs down the field far more often and in ways that the Longhorns seem poised to mimic in 2019.

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History major, football theorist.