One might look at Miami tight end Tom Crabtree as a hybrid with an attitude. Like a hybrid car, tight ends have two ways to accomplish a job. They also do their work with relatively little fanfare and are best measured in terms of efficiency under a variety of conditions.
Miami Tight End Tom Crabtree / Photo: Mike Smith
Veteran tight ends get all that. Successful tight ends, Crabtree feels, not only embrace their dual roles as blockers and receivers, but also summon a little extra kick to enhance their hybrid performance.
You have to have a little bit of a nasty attitude to play tight end and be successful. Youre going to get in there and get dirty, he said. Youre not getting 10 or 15 balls thrown at you (each) game, so you have to understand that, and you have to have an attitude.
Crabtree is certainly capable of catching passes. He had 54 catches for 851 yards as a senior at Bloom-Carroll High School in Carroll, Ohio. After redshirting in 2004, Crabtree appeared in all 11 Miami games the following season as a reserve tight end and special teams player.
To Crabtree, the special teams role has been something of a bonus.
I love playing special teams, he said. "Its kind of like a chance to play defense like back in high school.
Crabtrees time on offense continued to increase as he gained experience and improved his techniques. In high school, we could just push guys around, even though our technique was sloppy at times, he said. You get here, and you try to block a fifth year senior with that stuff, youre going to get put on your back pretty quick.
He continued, My redshirt sophomore year was my first chance to start. My technique wasnt always great. Looking back at old games, there are things I look at now and say, Man, why did I do that?
Regardless of his role blocking or receiving Crabtree knows good footwork is a necessity for tight ends.
Practice is a lot of the same things the offensive linemen go through a lot of footwork, he said. Even (in) running our routes, there is a lot of footwork.
|Crabtree offers advice during practice
Photo: Mike Smith
If anything, Crabtree reasoned, tight ends need to pay special attention to blocking techniques. Blocking for us is not as natural as catching a ball or running a route. With blocking, you really have to work on your technique and work in the weight room.
Listed at 6-5 and 244 pounds, Crabtree isnt nearly as big as linemen from tackle to tackle. Still, he is a standout in the weight room. He is part owner of the teams top bench-press mark (435 pounds) and has recorded 30 reps at 225 pounds (best among current RedHawk players).
I do okay, Crabtree said with a slight grin. I take a lot of pride in that. (Tight ends) compete with a lot of other guys in the weight room. I think that makes everybody better.
Getting better is what a lot of the last two weeks have been about for the Miami RedHawks.
After falling to 1-3 with a 45-20 loss at Cincinnati, Miami had last week off. Coach Shane Montgomery said it gave his banged up team time to heal. It also gave it time to regroup for the conference portion of its schedule.
We wanted to win our conference, and we still have that goal in front of us, Crabtree said.
Providing the first conference test for hosting Miami will be Temple. The Owls not only have the same overall record as Miami, they are close in several statistical categories.
For example, Miami is 12th
among 13 MAC teams in scoring offense (19.2 ppg). Temple, meanwhile, occupies the basement at 15.6 ppg. Likewise, both teams have struggled rushing the ball. Temple is 12th (93.6 ypg), while Miami is last with a 77.8 ypg. average
One area which may be of particular concern to Crabtree and his teammates is kickoff returns. Temple ranks No. 1 in the MAC with a 31.5-yard average. The Owls are fourth in punt return average (15.0 yards per return).
Crabtree remembers last years game, in which he caught a touchdown pass. He figures the Owls will once again be a tough opponent. Temple built up a 24-7 lead and held on for a 24-17 win last season.
Noting his team spent significant time working on fundamentals during the bye week, Crabtree hopes the RedHawks can be firing on all cylinders now that conference time is here.
We were real inconsistent with the fundamentals (during the first four games), Crabtree said. I feel like once we get those things back on track, we can play a complete game.