On most prep football teams, everyone’s familiar with the Quarterback, Running backs, and Receives on the offensive front. The unsung hero of high school football continues to be lonely Tight End. Maybe it’s a function of sophistication in terms of play calling where you really start to get into the niche abilities of your standard Tight End. The teams that have a solid player at that position can do some real damage to defenses they face. Let’s take a look at the Tight End position and how he brings pain to those who forget about him.
First, what is a prep football Tight End? It’s an interesting position with a little bit of schizophrenic aplomb. First of all, the Tight End lines up on the Offensive line typically. At a bare minimum, the Tight End must be fairly strong and large enough be at that table so to speak. He’s going up against Defensive lineman who are big, quick, and nasty. In a rushing set, he’s generally thought of as 6th offensive lineman. The receiver on the side of the tight-end must be offset from the line of scrimmage. So that’s the traditional role of the Tight end…essentially a 6th blocker but it that’s not what makes the Tight End interesting. He’s got a special talent within the rules of Football that makes him very versatile in passing offensive set.
The Tight End is unique in that he is allowed to catch a forward thrown ball. Depending on the high school football coach’s preferences and strategy, this can wreak call kinds of havoc on the defense. The tight end can start as a lineman and actually release down field to catch a ball. This particular prep sport position is all about deception and subterfuge and it’s part of what makes football strategy and the game itself so fun. It also brings up a different skill set from either a fellow defensive lineman or another receiver. The player who’s adept at playing tight end must be strong and big enough to handle blocking defensive lineman but he must also be agile enough to maneuver down field with soft hands so he can actually catch passes. That’s a hard list of expectations for most people to meet. Most lineman can’t catch (that well) and most receivers aren’t big enough to handle the maelstrom at the line of scrimmage. If you have a player with both attributes, the position of high school Tight End becomes very dangerous and dependency from year to year on this position is probably driven as much by that year’s particular talent pool as anything else.
One other great attribute of this skill set is the desired mismatches down field. If you can release a big and strong Tight End up field back the linebackers…into the world of fast but smaller Defensive Backs, a Tight End can do some real damage. One on one, a Tight End can break tackles and eat up yardage against a Corner back or Free Safety. The traditional Strong Safety is probably a better match and generally is require to neutralize the offensive prep sport position of Tight End. It sure is going to be fun watching them try.
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