In this age of spread offenses loaded with hordes of wide receivers, the tight end has become a forgotten man on many college football teams.
But with Matt Rhule tossing a lot of pro-style formations into the offensive mix, Baylor still values its tight ends. Sophomores Christoph Henle and Tyler Henderson and redshirt freshman Ben Sims should all see considerable playing time this season.
Baylor’s tight end picture will become more complete in the summer when December signee Sam Snyder from Fleming Island, Fla., joins the roster. Baylor has become an attractive destination for tight ends for the simple reason that they’re still needed.
“I think the focus this whole spring was just to involve the tight end more in our offense,” Henle said. “We got about 40 snaps each game last year, and we really want to be more integrated in our passing scheme and where we don’t go into four-receiver personnel groupings anymore. It’s either a tight end or two tight ends every single play.”
Whether Baylor will throw more frequently to its tight ends in the fall remains to be seen. Henle led Baylor’s tight ends with seven catches for 58 yards last season while Henderson made two catches for seven yards, and neither scored a touchdown.
Baylor’s tight ends learn quickly that they must become dependable blockers to stay in the lineup. Learning a pro-style offense is a big transition for most tight ends coming out of spread formations in high school.
“It’s totally different because in today’s 7-on-7 culture these guys are playing wideout more than they are putting their hand in the ground and blocking power and inside zone,” said Baylor tight ends coach Marcus Satterfield. “That’s a transition they have to learn and it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Satterfield took over as tight ends coach this spring after Joey McGuire moved to defensive ends coach. Satterfield has considerable experience, serving as Rhule’s offensive coordinator at Temple University from 2013-15 before becoming the head coach at Tennessee Tech for two seasons.
After serving as Baylor’s director of recruiting last year, Satterfield is glad to be back coaching on the field. Since he’s known Rhule and several other Baylor staff members for several years, the adjustment has been relatively easy.
“I get to take a year off and tell everybody what they should have done,” Satterfield said. “Now I’m back on the field, and it’s really, really good. My energy, I’m recharged and ready to go. It’s an easy transition. We’ve all coached together forever, so it’s been smooth.”
Satterfield takes over an inexperienced but promising group of tight ends. Coming in as a true freshman last season, Henle was pressed into immediate playing time after senior Jamie Jacobs went out with a career-ending injury during the summer.
The 6-6, 251-pound native of Austria held his own as a starter last season and plans to build off that experience. Henle hopes to improve his all-around game and get more pass catching opportunities.
“Absolutely, for sure, that’s the main thing we worked on with Coach Sat over the spring,” Henle said. “It’s little things we have to improve on. And it’s painful to work on those little things and get really good at those details. But I think we’re improving every day and getting more and more into our offense and into our passing game. So that’s a really good thing for us at the tight end position.”
Playing under Satterfield has been an adjustment because his meticulous style is much different than McGuire’s emotional persona.
“They’re totally different coaches, but they’re both amazing coaches,” Henle said. “Coach McGuire is just one emotional guy, a lot of juice for sure, where Coach Satterfield is very detail-oriented and he wants every single thing perfect.”
At 6-4 and 244 pounds, Henderson is another big tight end who should see more playing time this year. The 6-4, 249-pound Sims improved his strength as a redshirt last season and learned Rhule’s system. With Bralen Taylor moving to wide receiver, the tight end room got smaller, giving Sims more reps during spring drills.
“It’s a lot faster, bigger game, so that transition was kind of difficult,” said Sims, a graduate of San Antonio Clark High School. “I feel like I’m slowly getting the hang of it, but the run blocking is my main focus. It’s been a process and I’ve really enjoyed all of it. The reps are awesome.”
How much action Baylor’s tight ends see in the fall will depend to some degree on how they develop this spring and summer. But they’re still needed in Rhule’s system and will play essential roles.
“Just let them grow,” Satterfield said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys that haven’t played a lot of football. As they keep maturing and finding their niche within this organization and the offense, they’re going to get more reps out on the field and more personnel groupings on the field that we can use our tight ends.”