ed.- bumped from the fanposts.
It's no secret that defensive coaches dread defensing a great tight end because of their access to defensive soft spots, and I'm going to go ahead and state right now that Colin Peek, 6'6 250, originally of Bolles High School (Yeah, Travis Carroll, dawg) and Georgia Tech, will be a major difference maker in Alabama's 2009 offense, second only to Julio Jones. It's rare to find a tight end who can both block well and run routes and receive well, and while time will tell how well Peek blocks, the transfer from Georgia Tech has already earned accolades from teammates, coaches, and media personalities for his receiving ability. In the 2009 A-Day Game Peek showed his skills, and viewing the game you got the feeling that Alabama had a lot more up its sleeve regarding Peek than it wanted to show.
...check out the catch and run at the :20 mark...
Now, very few people outside of Tuscaloosa expect much from Alabama's 2009 offense, and on paper, why should they? When an offense loses more starters than it returns, it's only common for football experts to be noncommittal in their predictions. That's safer than predicting unproven players to come through and have a big season, and it's remarkably easier to jump on a bandwagon than to excuse an erroneous prediction. Still, it's not a stretch with Colin Peek. As a result of his transfer from Georgia Tech, Alabama is getting a fifth year senior player with NFL ability in a spot normally taken by a new player. Athlon won't put his name in bold letters, but he's certainly not green with four varsity letters, and he's clearly dangerous. He could make a splash as big as Terrence Cody...well, maybe not as Cody in the literal sense, but you get my point. Colin Peek is Alabama's top newcomer.
Last year, Alabama's passing game could be divided into two categories: Julio (58 receptions, 924 yards) and Tight Ends (46 receptions, 474 yards). That's almost 60% of the near 2,400 yards Alabama quarterbacks passed for, and with Jim McElwain calling plays in 2009, fans can expect much of the same. Nick Walker was Alabama's second leading receiver with 32 receptions, but he was severely limited in the routes he could run effectively, relying primarily on short play action routes. Travis McCall totaled only 7 receptions, the same number as Brad Smelley, who does return. I expect Colin Peek to surpass Walker and McCall's combined totals in both catches and yardage.
Julio Jones will garner considerable coverage, leaving Alabama's second and third receivers in likable coverage situations. From a defensive coach's standpoint, a tight end who can run short to intermediate routes right in the middle of the field, where a defense is tremendously vulnerable, presents frightening possibilities. Remember how hard the Cowboys were to defense when they had Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek? Remember Brent Jones running routes underneath Jerry Rice? A great receiving tight end can, in many cases, be a greater threat than a wide receiver because of his position in the middle of the field. He can get to a defense's soft spot sooner than a wide receiver, and he can draw coverage from slower and shorter linebackers and smaller defensive backs. With a new quarterback like Greg McElroy, Alabama could even simplify some plays as reads between Julio Jones and Colin Peek.
Speaking of McElroy, not only has Peek built an extremely close friendship with him and chemistry is an invaluable benefit. What is of more importance, however, is that Peek's faster than both Walker and McCall and he can effectively run more of the aforementioned routes than either. With his ability to catch the ball in so many places, combined with Julio Jones's known ability to stretch the field and garner coverage, McElroy has at least two NFL caliber targets defenses will struggle to defend.
Call me a homer, but I don't think it's a stretch to say Alabama's 2009 offense might be better than the 2008 edition. Don't underestimate the potential of a great tight end. Their contributions in route running, in matchups, and in the soft spot of the field are invaluable. Colin Peek will show this in 2009.