Spring Preview: Tight Ends

Fresno State returns starter Bear Pascoe and welcomes a new coach Jeff Grady. Grady will look to improve a unit with limited success last season and often used a converted fullback in many of its double-tight end packages.

Starters returning: 1 Lettermen Returning: 2
Junior Bear Pascoe (6-5, 260) didn't have the year many fans expected but it was not his fault. Pascoe caught just about everything thrown his way ending the season with 22 receptions for 307 yards and two touchdowns. The shortcoming of the Bulldog passing game ultimately cost Pascoe more catches, but with a new position coach – who just happens to be a former quarterback – the future looks bright.

New Tight End Coach Jeff Grady will have to figure out a way to get his two other "true" tight ends into the offense. Last season, converted fullback Isaac Kinter (6-1, 240) became the team's second tight end. Kinter is likely making the move back to fullback or his better suited position, H-back. But he could see more time lining up on the line if junior Drew Lubinsky (6-6, 250) and senior Jesus Tapia (6-6, 250) don't step up this spring.

Lubinsky did not have a reception last season and Tapia hauled in one for no gain, saying they underachieved is an understatement. Kinter, on the other hand, hauled in 10 receptions for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But the Bulldogs need to take advantage of their size at tight end, and be able to move Kinter to the backfield.

Pascoe has established himself as one of the premier tight ends in the Western Athletic Conference. Despite the Bulldog passing game dropping from 3,384 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2005 to a paltry 1,898 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2006, the starting tight end's numbers improved. 2005 starter Devyn McDonald caught 18 balls for 242 yards and two touchdowns, compared to 22 for 307 yards and two touchdowns. Pascoe caught five that year in a reserve role for 34 yards as redshirt freshman.

Pascoe's speed has improved since he first arrived as quarterback/defensive tackle in 2004. He made the move to tight end in the spring of 2005 and quickly adjusted to the role. Last season against Hawaii, he showed his speed racing 75 yards for the game's first touchdown. A strong spring will solidify his starting spot and likely will be the precursor for a great junior season. He is the team's second leading returning receiver, behind Chastin West.

Head Coach Pat Hill stated on signing day tight end recruit Jeff Skidmore is the first he has recruited who is a natural receiver, not a blocker. Skidmore will be first tight end he will have to teach how to block and not receive. Blocking tight ends Lubinsky and Tapia have yet to become contributors catching the ball. Through two seasons, Lubinsky has yet to catch a ball and Tapia has just two in his three-year career.

But both guys have been valuable blockers but were not good enough to unseat Kinter as the team's second tight end in many double-tight end packages. Lubinsky has all the tools to have a great spring and looks like the favorite to win the back up job behind Pascoe. It is still unknown whether new Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain will implement any new formations in spring. Under Coach Hill, the Bulldogs have used two tight ends effectively in run-blocking schemes.

Tapia came to Fresno State with much promise out of Kingsburg High School in 2003. After a redshirt season, the former high school basketball player has yet to become a regular contributor to the offense. In his final year, Tapia must have a great spring; otherwise he could find himself on the bench for another season.

The only other tight end on the roster is sophomore Norman Davis (6-6, 210). Davis did not play last season and is still a bit raw. He stood out last spring because of his tall, lanky body. Davis has a good shot as any to be the team's second tight end, but will have to continue to add weight to his frame, if he wants to be an effective blocker on the line.

Other Spring Preveiws:
Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Defensive Backs

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