He’s joined in the meeting room by junior college transfer Isaac Ijalana and Blake Bell, who has made the position switch from quarterback this spring.
All of them are big targets — 6-foot-4 or taller and over 240 pounds. All must prove they can seal the edge and move linebackers on running plays before they can factor in the passing game.
The blocking ability is what is bringing the tight end back in vogue in OU’s offense.
The 3-4 defensive alignment, which has become more prevalent as a countermeasure to spread offenses, puts speedier outside linebackers on the field to cover slot receivers.
Tight ends that can block are the way of turning that defensive speed from a positive to a negative.
Stoops is more concerned with that aspect than finding tight ends OU can flex out as slot receivers like Jermaine Gresham did from 2006-08.
Adjusting the passing game plays into it as well. Since 2009, OU’s most productive receivers have lined up a lot in the slot. Ryan Broyles (2008-12) and Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lined up as slot receivers on many downs.
“It’s definitely a little bit different with Jalen in there the past two seasons since I’ve been here, he’s a little shifty guy and now we’ve got these big bodies, you’re able to throw some higher balls, throw some gut shots to get it on them,” Knight said “They’re not going to win in space quite as much but for the high balls, it’s a lot different and a lot better.”
How productive the tight ends are the spring will decide if OU’s ready to commit to making part of the base offense in the fall.
Ultimately, it’s about providing the best option.
“There’s just not a lot of Jermaine Greshams running around,” Stoops said. “They’ve got to be the right people, and they’ve got to be experienced enough that when they go on the field, they’re better than another personnel grouping you might display out there. That’s what we’ve got to deal with.”