Tight End U?

University of Miami has had the reputation of “Quarterback U” for years, but with the recent success of Hurricane tight ends, it may be time to call Miami “Tight End U.”

In the past few years, Miami has positioned their offense in a way to put an emphasis on their tight ends. Both Bubba Franks and Jeremy Shockey passed up their senior year at UM to enter the NFL draft. Both were picked No. 14 in the first round: Franks in 2000 to the Green Bay Packers, and Shockey in 2002 to the New York Giants.

Shockey was “welcomed” this past weekend by the rowdy fans at Veterans stadium.

“It’s like every game,” Shockey said. “You want to win. I don’t see what I did wrong; I played with emotion, that’s why I play. I said some things to get the team pumped to go out and play hard.”

Running his mouth off all week to the media was not the best idea for the tight end, being a rookie in the NFL.

“That’s just Jeremy. I mean I wasn’t here when he was but I know him, and he’s not cocky, its just confidence and he likes to show it,” said true freshman Eric Winston. “When he catches the ball he gets excited about it, that’s just the way he is.”

Eric Winston is a 6-foot 7, 270 pound freshman that has notably contributed as a backup, when the Hurricanes use two tight ends. Six foot five inch, 230 pound sophomore, Kellen Winslow, has more than sufficiently filled the gap left by the departure of Shockey.

“Kellen is more of a Shockey type, I’m more like Franks,” explained Winston. “Franks really got open well but didn’t have great speed, and that’s what makes me more of a Bubba-type. We make a great combination; we’re both young guys and we’ll be here for a while.”

After spending most of last season splitting his time between receiver and tight end, Winslow ended up played mostly on special teams. He returned this year with around 20 pounds of added muscle. His size and speed are a nightmare for the opposing teams defense coordinators. Through the first six games, Winslow leads the team in receptions (22), and has four touchdowns. Last week he was honored and named Mid-Season All-American First Team.

“I want to be a big-time tight end. I want to be like Shockey or my dad, or even both of them,” stated Winslow. “They better stick a corner out there to match up with me though. I’m a receiver playing a tight end position.”

Winslow’s father, Kellen Winslow Sr. was a Hall of Fame tight end for the San Diego Chargers.

“Being Kellen Winslow’s son is real hard. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with this glamour,” Winslow explained. “My father is in the Hall of Fame, arguably the greatest tight end ever. Then Shockey is the greatest tight end to ever come out of Miami. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with that. I can handle it, but I do it because I put more pressure on myself than anybody else does.”

The Miami coaching staff is full aware that there is a lot of pressure on Winslow to fill Shockey’s shoes, because of how critical that position is for the team. Offense Coordinator Rob Chudzinski, said, “I think he’s just being hard on himself. He’s done a good job. He’s a perfectionist, and a younger player. There’s a lot of things he can improve on and I’m sure he will.”

Winslow and Winston make a great team of tight ends to add to the status of Miami. They have the ability to play the position; they are fast, quick and have good, soft hands. Splitting them out as receivers and putting them in the backfield is a huge advantage to the offense. They can also block well, which is important so the team can spread the middle of the playing field and throw the ball downfield.

“It has gotten pretty good between Kellen and I,” said Winston. “At first it was like we didn’t really know each other and we were fighting for the same spot, but we’ve came to be pretty good friends. He’s a great guy and he’s doing a great job out there. He deserves everything he is getting.”

Waiting in line is 6-foot 6, 200 pound freshman Curtis Justis. He was rated one of the top five tight ends in the nation last year by many recruiting organizations. As he watches Winslow and Winston practice their positions, he will soon enough get his chance to uphold the somewhat newly formed Miami reputation of Tight End U.

You can reach Dana Strokovsky at Hoopg1rl6@aol.com.