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Is Mike Leach *finally* going to use a tight end?

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Kassidy Woods might just be the guy.

NCAA Football: Eastern Washington at Washington State
Kassidy Woods — all 6-4/220 of him — has made the move to inside receiver.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The absence of inside receiver Jamire Calvin from the Washington State Cougars’ spring practices has left a void at the Y position, and while a number of players have filled in, one of the replacements has raised some eyebrows: Kassidy Woods.

Woods, who will be a redshirt freshman, saw sparing action last year in his first season. But that’s not what’s curious. The big thing — and we mean that literally — is that Woods is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, much, much larger than the small, shifty guys who normally man the position. River Cracraft was probably the biggest guy Leach has featured there, and he was 6-foot/200.

So, what gives? One might surmise that Leach is — for the first time since his first set of spring practices — dabbling with the idea of a tight end. Or, at least, a tight end-type receiver, since he might not be in line with the right tackle (what’s better known as a flex tight end.)

Woods had been playing outside up until now, and his “former” coach, Steve Spurrier Jr., thinks the move will serve him well.

“It’ll be kinda fun watching him play the position,” Spurrier said. “He does (look natural), and it’s not a huge difference. You gotta practice in there just to get used to some of the looks, defensively, they’re a little different inside than outside, but as far as running and catching, he played some inside in high school, so he’s well adept at the position and he’ll be fine.”

There’s a reason Leach hasn’t done much with tight ends. As he explained to ESPN a couple of years ago:

“You desperately want that big-body guy that can block but also catch balls and is big enough that he’s a mismatch on the strong safety but nifty enough that he’s a better athlete than the linebacker. So you’re constantly looking for those guys and the trouble is, as you’re sitting there pushing it too far, pretty soon you end up playing the third-team guard that can sort of catch, but all he is is the third-team guard. Well if he’s the third-team guard, what business does he have playing tight end? In my opinion, none.”

In essence, Leach hasn’t felt like it’s been a very good use of resources to pursue that kind of personnel. But that doesn’t mean he feels there’s no place for them. From the same article:

“Tight ends are a blast if you have them. If you have a true tight end -- and I mean a true tight end -- then life is good. God didn’t make very many true tight ends. Just go to the mall and the big long-armed guys you see at the mall -- you’ll see a couple, but most of them can’t run fast and those that can probably can’t catch. So there’s not very many of them.

Is Woods a “true tight end”? Maybe not yet. But let’s be honest: At 6-4/220, he’s probably only 20 pounds away from being one — maybe even only 10 if you compare him to the Big 12 “flex” tight ends in this article from Football Study Hall, which details how those spread offenses are using big bodies. That article concludes like this:

All in all this is a continued progression down the “spread-iso” school of offensive football. Much like the spread pick’n’roll era in the NBA, college spread offenses are learning that after you’ve spread your opponent out and they’ve accepted that new playing field that it becomes about isolating matchups that you can win. The flex TE is going to become the new position that everyone wants to use in order to have a good isolation matchup on passing downs.

Spring football is a time for experimentation. Let’s just hope this one turns out more productive than the last time Leach toyed with the idea of using a tight end at WSU.

Spring Ball Videos

Links

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