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March 26, 2014

Sooners bringing back the tight end spot

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s offense is getting bigger this spring. Winter workouts are not the reason. A change in philosophy and personnel gets the credit.

The Sooners want to return the tight end spot to the every-down status it once held. The benefits were on display late in the 2013 season. Once OU made Trevor Knight the quarterback the second time around, it stayed in bigger sets.

“It’s a huge part of running the football,” OU coach Bob Stoops said of the tight end impact.

Throwing it to them was not a major factor last season. OU’s tight ends caught four passes last season. Add in fullback Trey Millard, who did line up at tight end at times, and the number only jumps to 13 for the entire group.

OU ran the ball 59.3 percent of the time last season. The commitment to the run game and using the quarterback as part of it has allowed it to shift away from wide receiver-heavy

personnel groups that dominated when Landry Jones was the quarterback from 2010-12 and OU threw the ball over 55 percent of the time.

Tight ends are one of offensive football’s great wildcards. The bulk forces defenses to take speedier defensive backs off the field. That chess match can create exploitable advantages.

“It makes you more versatile as an offense if you have them in there. They don’t know what personnel to put out there,” OU tight end Taylor McNamara said. You can run it; you can throw it. It’s a benefit for sure.”

How much OU can rely on the group is a question that must be answered in the spring. McNamara is the only returning tight end who’s had much of an impact. He played sparingly in 2013 as a sophomore. His only catch was a 4-yard grab for a first time in the Sugar Bowl.

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