Shawn Moore knows a thing or two about the history of Virginia football. And the team's new tight ends coach is hoping to return the position to its former glory.
"This is Tight End U. It used to be Tight End U, and we're trying to get that title back right now," says Moore, a record-setting quarterback at Virginia in the late 1980s who spent the past two seasons coaching the team's wide receivers.
"For the last two years, it's been a little bit of a struggle in terms of implementing the tight end into the passing game, into the offense," Moore said Thursday. "But hopefully this year they'll play a bigger part."
The Cavaliers return four players who saw time at tight end in 2011 -- seniors Paul Freedman and Colter Phillips, junior Jeremiah Mathis, and sophomore Jake McGee. On Thursday, head coach Mike London called tight end one of the deepest positions on the team.
"I think the versatility of not only who we have back there, but what -- in terms of the skills they can do," London said. "It's a position that we want to get back into using because those guys have skills and talents."
"That's great to hear, when the coach wants to get you more involved. We want to have as positive (an impact) in the offense as we can. I mean, that's what we work for," said Freedman, who led Virginia tight ends with 11 catches for 112 yards last season.
"We've got the fast, stretch-the-field tight ends. We've got the in-line, brute force blockers. And we have a couple guys who can make people miss," said Phillips, who caught three passes for 15 yards in 10 games in 2011. "We've really got a lot of depth, and a lot of packages that we're going to be bringing out this year, which are going to be really effective for us."
Moore said among the team's tight ends, Phillips had the best combination of size, blocking ability, and hands. He said Freedman was the best pass-catcher of the group, and also a strong blocker. Mathis -- who caught six passes last year for 25 yards, including a pair of touchdowns -- and McGee -- who played mostly on special teams as a redshirt freshman -- are both threats to spread the field.
"We've got a wide range of skill sets in that room, so we bring a variety," said Freedman. "We can have three tight ends on the field, where it's really like we've got two tight ends and two receivers, with our skill set."
Moore said he's already begun campaigning in coaching meetings to get the tight ends more attention.
"That's one of the reasons they're happy I'm in the offensive meeting room, is to really be the voice for them as we game plan each week," Moore said. "To get them more involved in the offense."