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George to Bring BYU Tight Ends Up To Speed

13 March 2013 Brett Richins
Andrew George sores to defeat Utah in 2009. BYU PHOTO

George scores to defeat Utah in 2009. BYU PHOTO

Andrew George is the man for the job.

For weeks now, BYU fans have wondered just exactly who the tight ends position coach would be on the new offensive staff.

That question was answered on Monday night when offensive coordinator Robert Anae told the media that, “Andrew George is our guy,” when speaking of who would coach the inside receivers.

After spending a year mostly serving in an administrative role to the staff and helping to prep and coach the scout team, George is being elevated to a position coach even though he is still a graduate assistant working on a masters degree in public administration.

Andrew became a beloved figure at BYU as a player, catching passes as part of a one-two punch at tight end with Dennis Pitta and making a memorable, game-winning catch and run to the end zone to defeat Utah in overtime in 2009. After his career in Provo ended, he signed free agent contracts with the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills, but failed catch on in the NFL.

The next step in his football career will be to make his mark by coaching the tights ends and slot receivers in Anae’s fast-break style of offense this season. It’s not unheard of for a graduate assistant to serve as a position coach in college, but it’s not the norm, either.

Andrew is uniquely qualified for the job however, given his productivity as a player and his experience playing the position under Anae. The fact that he is just a few years removed from his playing days also means that George should be able to relate well to the current crop of tight ends and help them understand what is required to elevate their level of productivity and consistency. Over the past three seasons, the production at the position has fallen way off in a program that has produced some of the best tight ends in college football history.

Andrew told the media on Monday that much of the new offense is familiar to the tight ends who played under Anae in 2010, but that there are some different schemes to come up to speed on. “The passing game is similar, but there is a lot of play action and QB movement that (Anae) has brought in–and the run game is completely different.”

George also explained that the tight ends will typically be split out from the offensive line and will be utilized in a similar fashion to the way the Cougars have employed the talents of players like Jonny Harline and Dennis Pitta in recent years. He also mentioned that speed at the position will be important and that some of the tights ends are actually cutting weight to improve their speed and increase their ability to get open.

That has to be good news for players like Marcus Mathews and Richard Wilson.

Mathews has always been the lightest of the tight ends and a good route runner, while Wilson is the speediest of the group. The emphasis on speed and the ability to operate out in space in a flexed position also gives some insight into the move of Austin Holt to defensive end. Holt was the better blocker and the most suited of the tight ends to play with his hand on the ground next to the offensive line, but he was also the slowest of foot.

That doesn’t mean the the position will demand only speed and finesse. “We’re looking for guys that are tough and can make plays,” George emphasized.

Kaneakua Friel emerged as the the team’s top tight end last season with 30 catches for 308 yards and five touchdowns. Devin Mahina battled injuries once again in 2012, but managed to finish second on the team with eight receptions, two of which ended up in the end zone. Both Friel and Mahina are big, rangy targets. Devin is probably the best athlete of the bunch, while Friel is the most physical and aggressive.

With four tight ends fighting for time, it may appear as if there may not enough snaps to go around in the new offense. But just like the running back situation, there will also likely be a number of tights ends employed throughout the course of a game, especially if Anae uses some of the same double-tight sets that he was known for during his first stint as offensive coordinator. The thought of BYU playing multiple tall, big-bodied tight ends, alongside big wideouts Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo in a fast-tempo offense, may just keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

After seasons of the tight end wandering in the wilderness, the hope is that George is the right man to lead them back to prominence in the BYU offense in 2013.

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