2. Tight end will be about the passing attack more than blocking.
Although up until last week, we projected Austin Pope to be Tennessee football’s starter at tight end, moving Julian Nixon there suggests Josh Heupel is about to make the position once again more about finesse in the passing game than blocking. Given his system and how much he likes to spread the field, there’s nothing wrong with that.
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However, this is a reasonable assumption to make. Nixon easily could have moved over to provide depth at receiver, but Heupel wants to use his abilities as a pass-catcher specifically at tight end. Maybe this is why Sean Brown and Jackson Lowe, two primary blocking tight ends, hit the portal to begin with. No tight end on the roster is heavier than those two were last year.
Looking at Heupel’s past, he’s had great success before with tight ends in the passing game. In fact, the last time he was in the SEC, he produced an All-SEC tight end in Albert Okwuegbunam, who had 29 catches for 415 yards and 11 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2017.
Heupel has always tried to incorporate at least one non-receiver in a big way in the passing game, and it appears as if he’s putting the Vols tight ends in position to do that this year. If they can find their own Okwuegbunam, they’ll be in great shape.