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March 14, 2013
Vols' tight ends embrace new offense
There were few positions at Dunwoody High School that Justin King wasn't asked to play.
The jumbo athlete logged time at quarterback, linebacker and nearly too many positions for King to remember.
But the last time he took any snaps at tight end before beginning that process last August at the collegiate level was during his freshman year of high school.
No matter, King has vowed he'll do anything he can to be a factor on the field and help the Vols win football games this fall under first-year coach Butch Jones.
"I played tight end in ninth grade. After that, my sophomore year through my senior year, I played quarterback. But I'm just trying to help make the team as best I can. Try to win ballgames," King said. "I just stuck with (tight end) from last year. I told coach Jones, the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator if they wanted me to play defense, I was going to go there. Just trying to help this team win. I'm stressing that right now. We're just trying to get back on the top. All these guys are focused. The coaches are focused. We're just buying in to this program."
Right now, King is squarely in the mix alongside fellow sophomore Brendan Downs and redshirt freshman Justin Meredith. By summer, junior college signee Woody Quinn will join the competition.
"I think Justin brings a level of athleticism to us. He can do a number of things. He has a great skill-set in terms of physicality but also an athletic part as well. The good thing about the tight end position is that their skill-sets really complement each other," Jones said. "But again that's a position that really has to have a great sense of urgency each and every day."
Like King, Downs said he worked at length to study film of Cincinnati and the way the Bearcats utilized their tight ends under Jones. Last year Bearcats tight end Travis Kelce parlayed a strong campaign into a budding NFL Draft profile.
"I watched a lot of film on Cincinnati's offense. When I heard about the hire I went and looked at how Cincinnati used their tight ends. That is going to effect me," said Downs, a former standout at Tennessee High who battled back from a pre-season knee injury last year to be a contributor. "I was interested in that and once I saw that I was like, 'OK, I think I am really going to like that.'"
As Jones admitted, Tennessee's coach with a strongly offensive background asks much of his tight ends. Downs echoed those sentiments and insisted he's ready to accept the challenge.
"He asks a lot of his tight ends," Downs said. "We are all over the field. I think when he says that (tight ends must approach preparations with a great sense of urgency) he means we have to be even more locked in because we are doing all kinds of different stuff on and off the field and with personnel.
"We have to be really locked in out there and have a really good grasp of the offense."
King said the tight ends will grab command of their role in the offense and help the unit with its plans to dictate tempo in the fall.
"We're real quick. We're on the ball, get the play, and next thing you know we are looking at the sidelines trying to get the signals," King explained. "It's a high-tempo offense. That's what we want. We want to make our opponent tired, and at the same time we have to know what we are doing first. That's what we are doing out here, just getting better each day.
"We want our opponent at the end of the game huffing and puffing. We've got Oregon in our season and we want to be ready. No sir [the Vols won't huddle], we're a high-tempo offense."