Last season, Willie Burden was the sixth man on the Georgia Southern offensive line when the Eagles used an unbalanced set.
Tyler Sumner was a wide receiver that came in tight and lined up next to the tackle.
Now, all of a sudden, they’re both playing the same position on the depth chart.
Georgia Southern gathered together three players to, for the first time, focus on playing tight end in the triple-option offense.
Since GSU coach Jeff Monken started working as an assistant under Paul Johnson in 1997, they’ve always taken some of the bulkier receivers and some of the more limber offensive tackles and added them as an extra blocker along the line in certain formations.
Now, it’s finally got a name.
Sumner and Burden were already the go-to sixth linemen, but it became official when the Eagles went out and recruited freshman Wilson Hudgins specifically as a tight end. Now they won’t have to pick and choose which guys from other positions to put there.
“We just kind of said, ‘Okay, you guys are those guys,’” Monken said. “‘That’s your position.’”
There have been a few small changes. Burden, a former Statesboro defensive lineman, had to work on pass catching and route running, and Sumner had to get a bit more built for the position.
“I had to gain a little bit of weight,” said Sumner, who started camp listed at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, “but that’s about it. I’ve done a lot more work with the offensive linemen this camp, but we’re still working with the wide receivers.”
“We told them they’re going to be offensive coordinators before they leave,” said Brett Gilliland, tight ends/offensive line coach.
Gilliland made the switch to coaching the o-line after coaching the fullbacks in 2010 in order to give a hand to Brent Davis, who has to juggle coaching the line and being the team’s offensive coordinator.
“I’ve had work with all the skill positions, but I’ve never worked with the line,” said Gilliland about the new role. “It’s been a great experience to train my eyes to look at what I’m supposed to be looking at. Instead of just knowing what’s supposed to happen, now I know how to make it happen.”
Sumner has the most experience of the tight ends. As a wide receiver in 2009 and 2010, he combined for 19 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown.
Still, Sumner and the other two tight ends — much like the team’s receivers — know that’s not their primary purpose.
“Our job is to block,” said Sumner. “We might get a couple of passes here and there, but mainly it’s blocking.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.