August 11, 2006

Dueling tight ends

There's a symbiotic relationship between BYU's offense, its quarterbacks, and its tight ends. Since Lavelle Edwards decided to focus on the forward pass at BYU, there have been six quarterbacks who have earned all-american recognition. During the same period there have also been six tight ends with similar honors. Five of six times, when a talented BYU quarterback masters the offense enough to earn the award, so has a BYU tight end. Coincidence?

At BYU, success at each of these positions generates success for the other. The updated form of the BYU offense is in place, and quarterback John Beck is poised for a magnificent season. So, how about the tight end position?

Last year, co-starting tight end Jonny Harline led all cougar receivers with 63 catches. Among returning tight ends, the senior also leads the nation with 853 yards collected during the 2005 season. Surely opposing defensive coordinators must be aware of him - won't they figure out how to slow him down? Does he have a weakness? Well, he seems indifferent as a blocker, mainly because BYU's offense needs him out in the pattern as a receiver as quickly as possible.

What can defenses do against Harline? First there's his size at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds - cover him with a linebacker who can match up with him physically? Good, but he's faster than most linebackers his size and usually leaves them behind. Safeties? He's quite capable of bowling them over after a catch. Smother him with a zone? He makes an excellent target for Beck if the defense lets him pick a gap in the coverage. Out jump him for the ball before he can catch it? Nope, he can leap with the best of them.

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