2016 Miami Hurricanes spring football preview: TE group is no joke

Fourth in a series of position-by-position looks at the Hurricanes heading into spring practices, which begin March 15. Previously: QB | RB | WR

If David Njoku becomes the player Miami thinks he can be, he’ll be among the better tight ends to come out of Coral Gables.

An even sweeter thought for Hurricanes fans: he’s not the only good one down there.

Njoku, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, leads a position group that one UM staffer recently summed up thusly: “We have three guys that can play. And one guy that can really, really play.”

New position coach Todd Hartley inherits arguably the most favorable situation on the roster – and potentially, one the best tight end groups in the ACC – with loads of talent, experience, versatility and depth.

“They are a phenomenal group,” he said on signing day. “What’s your mold, your profile that you look for in a tight end at Miami? You want guys that are big, athletic, that can be flexed out, that can be attached, that can kind of do it all? Well, you’ve got that in the guys that you have here, and we just signed two more that fit that profile.”

A look at Miami’s tight end situation heading into the spring:

David Njoku breaks a tackle against Virginia Tech in a 2015 game. (Getty Images)
David Njoku breaks a tackle against Virginia Tech in a 2015 game. (Getty Images)

Projected depth chart
David Njoku, R-Soph.
Chris Herndon, Jr.
Stan Dobard, Sr.

On the way: Michael Irvin II, Fr.; Jovani Haskins, Fr.

Moving on: Jerome Washington (left team), Jake O’Donnell (left team).

Expected starter: Njoku, who showed flashes of why UM is so high on him. He was a willing and rugged blocker (just ask Duke, who felt his wrath on Corn Elder’s winning kick return) and was hard to bring down after the catch. An ACC-level competitor (and former New Jersey state champion) in the high jump, he used that ability to make athletic grabs (a leaping 33-yarder against Georgia Tech, and a 58-yard catch-and-run against Virginia were especially memorable). He finished with 21 catches for 362 yards and a touchdown, and a team-high 17.2 yards per catch. With apologies for using a well-worn cliché, he’s a freak.

Major storyline: How will Mark Richt use them? Recently at Georgia, he had future NFL draft picks Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, and threw to them plenty. Njoku is arguably the best tight end he’s coached since Benjamin Watson, New England’s first-round pick in 2004. He was used in a traditional spot, in the slot, out wide and as an H-back, running a variety of routes.

Don’t sleep on Herndon and Dobard, who are very capable. Herndon (6-4, 259) is slightly less athletic than Njoku, but still a strong blocker and has reliable hands. Used sometimes as an H-back and occasionally as a fullback, he caught 18 balls for 237 yards and a touchdown. Dobard (6-4, 262) is a thick-bodied blocker who hasn’t found a role as a pass-catcher. The backup to Clive Walford in 2014 who finished the season as the starter when Walford was hurt, he saw his play count decrease last season and his production stagnated (7-147-0 in ’14, 8-90-1 in ’15). As a senior, he’ll be competing hard for playing time.

Irvin (6-3, 237), the son of the former Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys great, and Haskins (6-4, 230) are summer arrivals who will almost certainly redshirt. That will only help them – and the team.

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