2014: Tight Ends

On paper, Virginia Tech should have a strength on offense next season: tight end.  Of course, we would rather that strength be quarterback, running back or offensive line, but for lack of any other options, I’ll certainly take tight end.  It’s a step in the right direction.

The Hokies return their starting tight end from 2012, and their starting tight end from 2013.  There is also a possibility (I consider it almost a definite) that they could be joined by a talented young player who will be moving from another position.

Let’s examine Tech’s returning tight ends in a little more depth.


Ryan Malleck and Kalvin Cline top the depth chart

Malleck (6-4, 249, r-Jr.) was all set to be Tech’s starting tight end for the second season in a row, and Scot Loeffler was very excited about his potential.  However, a preseason shoulder injury forced surgery and he was lost for the season.

Catching 17 passes for 174 yards, Malleck did pretty well for a true sophomore in a Virginia Tech offense that neglected the tight end (until Scot Loeffler arrived).  He also showed potential as a perimeter run blocker.  On J.C. Coleman’s two long touchdown runs against Duke in 2012, it was Malleck who threw two critical blocks on the edge to spring the big play.

It was clear watching Spring practice last season that Scot Loeffler had a big role envisioned for Malleck, and that there were no other tight ends on the team outside of Kalvin Cline who could do what Malleck could do in the passing game.

With Malleck back for 2014, the Hokies will have two legitimate receiving threats at tight end.  Perimeter blocking should also be improved.  Malleck obviously missed a season’s worth of weight room work, but he has the whole offseason to get back to form and improve on where he was in 2013.

Kalvin Cline (6-4, 238, So.) caught 26 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman despite playing just one year of high school football.  Cline’s natural receiving ability plus the Loeffler-designed passing game means the Hokies got more production out of the their starting tight end than they are used to.

2004, Jeff King: 25 catches, 304 yards, 4 TDs
2005, Jeff King: 26 catches, 292 yards, 6 TDs
2006, Sam Wheeler: 13 catches, 199 yards, 2 TDs
2007, Sam Wheeler: 15 catches, 211 yards, 1 TD
2008, Greg Boone: 22 catches, 278 yards, 2 TDs
2009, Greg Boone: 7 catches, 75, 0 TD
2010, Andre Smith: 20 catches, 195 yards, 5 TDs
2011, Chris Drager: 15 catches, 201 yards, 2 TDs
2012: Ryan Malleck: 17 catches, 174 yards, 0 TDs
2013: Kalvin Cline: 26 catches, 321 yards, 1 TD

In terms of catches, Cline tied Jeff King’s 2005 season as the most productive season by a Tech tight end in the ACC era, and he’s #1 by himself in receiving yards.  As an older and stronger player, Malleck likely would have put up bigger numbers than Cline in 2013, had he been healthy.  Just one year into the Scot Loeffler era, it’s readily apparent that Virginia Tech is now a more attractive school for tight ends.

The talent is there for Cline obviously, but he’s got a ways to go in terms of strength.  He was a high school basketball player, and high school basketball players aren’t known for their prowess in the weight room.  He probably lifted a little bit as a senior, but I’m willing to bet he never put in any serious strength work until he got to Blacksburg.  He’s a few years behind from a strength standpoint, and he’s not going to catch up in one night or in one offseason unfortunately.