Today we’ll take a closer look at tight end and the offensive line at the conclusion of spring practice.
I’m listing Bucky Hodges as a wide receiver now because he basically never plays tight end, so you won’t see him discussed here.
1: Ryan Malleck (6-5, 245, r-Sr.)
2: Kalvin Cline (6-4, 245, r-So.)
3: Xavier Burke (6-3, 261, Fr.)
4: Dakota Jackson (6-3, 269, r-Jr.)
Ryan Malleck is as solid as the day is long. He was named Offensive MVP of spring practice. On balance, he is Virginia Tech’s best tight end. He is effective in the passing game, and he is also a good in-line blocker. He’s a traditional tight end who can put his hand in the ground, but you can also split him out wide a bit as well.
Kalvin Cline had a good year as a true freshman two years ago. In fact, what he was able to accomplish was quite impressive. Despite only playing one year of high school football and never playing tight end, he started for the Hokies and caught 26 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Bryan Stinespring did a great job getting him ready.
Cline isn’t the in-line blocker that Malleck is, but he’s not Bucky Hodges either. He’s somewhere in between both players. I think you’ll see him in motion a lot this season, and Scot Loeffler will attempt to line him up all over the field.
We all know that Bucky Hodges isn’t going to be playing with his hand on the ground very often, if at all. Kalvin Cline also isn’t the greatest blocker at the point of attack. Ryan Malleck has been injury prone in the past, so if something happens to him, how would the Hokies handle the traditional tight end role? I think it’s likely that Xavier Burke plays this year, and he could potentially be used as a blocking specialist. There’s a good chance that he’s better at the point of attack than both Hodges and Cline.
Burke prepped at Fork Union last year, and he’ll turn 20 years old this October. I don’t see the point in redshirting a 20 year old tight end unless he can’t contribute. Burke got a lot of quality reps this spring, including plenty with the #1 offense. At this point I think he’ll play. I don’t believe he will have a huge role in the passing game, but he can help the Hokies in the running game.
Dakota Jackson obviously has great size, but Burke appeared to get more first team reps during the scrimmages that I saw this spring. I think Jackson is simply a depth guy at this point. He can perhaps contribute on special teams, where he played 16 snaps last season.