PITTSBURG — The evolution of football in recent years has changed the way teams operate on the offensive end, but arguably no position has changed more than tight end.
Gone are the days of tight ends who focus on blocking, as Jovon Wilson and the rest of the Pittsburg State tight ends have to be versatile in the passing game.
“We’ve really expanded this position in the last few years,” Miller said. “A guy like Jovon and a guy like Andy [Otting] are athletic enough to be out in space and make somebody miss. A couple years ago, we were leading the team in touchdown receptions, so we have to be that guy to move the chains on third down and be a big red-zone target. We have an important job to catch the ball this year.”
Being tall and fast with good hands are requirements for a modern tight end, and Wilson’s skill set checks all the boxes.
“Jovon is the most versatile tight end I’ve ever had and he’s got a chance to do some special things this year,” Miller said. “He’s really bought into the blocking schemes and we all know what he can do on the outside of the field. He just runs really good routes and he’s a matchup nightmare, being as tall and athletic as he is. His catch radius is all the way around his body, so it’s going to be fun to watch him really develop this year into a three-down tight end and be a guy who we’re going to look to throw to and be a big red-zone target for us. I look for him to have a big year.”
Standing at 6-feet 5-inches and 249 pounds, Wilson is expected to get a bulk of the playing time in his senior season.
“I always say that tight end is the second-most difficult position behind the quarterback,” Wilson said. “You have to be a lineman and be a receiver. We have to take the right steps, take the right routes and make the correct reads.”
Also expected to get significant playing time at tight end for PSU is the redshirt-sophomore Otting, who is apart of a promising group of younger players.
“We’ve got a really good group of underclassmen,” Miller said. “We’ve got a couple transfers this year who are really big. We had a good freshman come in and we’re just trying to help them learn the offense. It’s going to be a slower process for them, but we just really want to get the basics down of what we want to do and then learn the entire offense. There’s no pressure for them to come in and play this year, which makes it nice because they just get to learn the offense and take it day by day.”
Although being a target for the quarterback is a high priority, blocking can’t be overlooked.
“We’re a run-first offense, which means we’re run-first tight ends,” Miller said. “If you’re not going to block somebody, then you’re not going to be a third-down tight end and that’s not what we want in our offense. We have to be able to play every down by blocking and then also run really good routes, catch the ball, move the chains and be a big target in the red zone.”
The theme for the Gorillas during fall camp seems to be putting last season behind them and focusing on the upcoming year, which rings true for the tight ends.
“We were a younger team last year, but a talented one,” Miller said. “We had a couple injuries that kind of held us back and a couple things that didn’t go our way, but we were a talented and young team. We have a lot of guys back who are hungry and had a great offseason. They didn’t come here to be 7-4 — like coach Beck has said — and they’re ready to win every single game, starting with the first against Central Missouri. They’re hungry and ready to get out there for that first game.”
In order to accomplish this goal, Pitt State plans to take the season one game at a time.
“For the team to be successful, the tight ends have to do their part,” Miller said. “That’s what every single player on the field has to do. Every single person on this team has to have a role from the bottom to the top. Everybody has a role on this team and our tight ends have to do their part in moving the chains on third down, being a big target in the red zone and blocking well on the interior of the offensive line.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.