OXFORD – There’s an aging blocker, a youthful catcher with lots of promise and a converted running back feeling his way around.
What there isn’t among the Ole Miss tight ends is one who can perform all aspects of the job, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze says.
Former walk-on Jack Nuismer says the group is working to change that. He doesn’t believe their clearly defined strengths as individuals will label them for opponents during games.
“I don’t think it limits us in what we can contribute,” said Nuismer, a senior who has appeared in three games in his career. “It’s finding the things that aren’t really weaknesses and improving those things. We feel like we’ve improved every day.”
The Rebels lost three senior tight ends off the 2012 roster. They combined for only 25 catches of 261 pass completions.
Blocking was a big part of what tight ends were asked to do a year ago, and that’s a strength for Nuismer (6-3, 243), who coaches consider a solid run blocker.
For freshman Evan Engram, it’s about catching the football.
Coaches approached Nick Parker, an all-state running back at South Panola, about moving to tight end where he’s made progress but still has ground to cover.
On the eve of August camp, Freeze talked about the need to get Engram ready to play.
Engram justified Freeze’s confidence in him Wednesday evening when he caught two touchdown passes in 11-on-11 work.
However, Engram missed a handful of days with staph infection putting him behind in learning his responsibilities within the offense, particularly in run-blocking, tight ends coach Maurice Harris said.
Harris calls Engram “a physical kid” and says he has put on 15 pounds since arriving in Oxford to get his weight up to 224.
Freeze speaks as though the tight end position is something that will be addressed down the road.
“We see progression in some areas. In others, it’s just not who we’re going to be. That’s just how we are at that position until we get more players there,” he said.