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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

FOOTBALL: Weis details plans for tight ends

The tight end position was Notre Dame's deepest last season, but the five players who saw action there combined to catch only 48 passes in 12 games. That's just 24.6 percent of the 195 passes completed by quarterback Brady Quinn.

Early on in Charlie Weis' first spring practice season, however, the Irish now are talking about playing two and three-tight end sets, using the talent available and benefiting from a proven strength in the offensive personnel.

"Usually, you'll have only one tight end on the field," Weis said. "But I have packages where there's two tight ends and three tight ends. So after I deal with the quarterback and the five linemen - so you know you have six on the field - then I try to figure out from the rest of the skill people who the best guys are from the different packages and try to put them in the best position."

Anthony Fasano (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) is the leading candidate to become Notre Dame's number one receiving option out of the tight end slot after a 27-catch, 367-yard, four-touchdown showing in 2004.

Like the rest of the players at the position, however, Fasano also has areas he needs to improve.

Though Billy Palmer (four catches, 34 yards, one touchdown) and Jerome Collins (six catches, 67 yards) will not return to Notre Dame next fall, junior Marcus Freeman, sophomore John Carlson and freshman Tim Gritzman are working to provide Weis with the tight end depth he needs to implement the maximum number of offensive packages.

"The role of the tight end is going to be up to us," Carlson said. "How we perform is going to decide how much the [coaches] use the tight ends. Obviously, if we make plays, they're gonna put us on the field, so hopefully that will happen."

As of now, the multiple-tight end talk is only that, though the players seem anxious to turn the talk into action.

"We haven't actually put in the three-tight end [formation] yet, but I mean, the more tight ends the better," Fasano said.

The high number of tight ends isn't the only thing that can benefit an offense. Years of experience spread out among the potential contributors add another positive variable to coaching the tight end position.

"As of right now, there's a lot of talent and tiered experience [at the tight end position]," Weis said. "And by that I mean [the players] are not all the same year in school. When you have tiered experience, it gives you the opportunity to not only play them but also to groom them at the same time."

Fasano said a major positive of spring practice has been that the tight ends, as well as other offensive players, have been picking up Weis' system well.

"If our tight ends are able to get us in offensive positions and run the routes and get open, I think it'll give the offense a big advantage," Fasano said.

Tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee characterized his group of tight ends as talented and willing to learn. Also, in the same matter-of-fact manner as Weis, Parmalee said he has his own opinion and philosophy on how those players need to improve.

"They all have the ability, they've just got to work the technique," Parmalee said. "You've got to understand the technique. You've got to understand what the guy on the other side is trying to do to you, and you've got to beat him to the punch. You've got to outsmart him.

"It's all about leverage and a lot of things you have to do to put yourself in a better position or better situation to execute the play."

Meanwhile, as Parmalee works on technique, Weis will observe and identify the available talent.

"You look at all those guys [at tight end]," Weis said. "How well they pick things up and how well they perform on the field helps me make my mind up as far as how I'm gonna handle personnel packages and get more of them involved in the game plan."