Georgia Tech spring preview: Tight ends

This is the sixth installment in a nine-part series that will preview Georgia Tech’s spring football practice, which begins Tuesday. Today: Tight ends | Yesterday: Offensive lineTomorrow: Quarterbacks

TIGHT ENDS
Who's gone: Tyler Cooksey, Tyler Davis
Who's back: Dylan Deveney, Dylan Leonard
Who's new: Luke Johns (position change)
Projected starter: Deveney

For a season, they were the Dylans and the Tylers – Georgia Tech senior tight ends Tyler Davis and Tyler Cooksey and their freshman counterparts Dylan Deveney and Dylan Leonard.

From the time they arrived in the summer until the 2019 season ended, Deveney and Leonard were under the tutelage of the Tylers, Davis in particular.

Last summer, “we were doing drills at 5:30 in the morning before team runs,” Davis said in November. “We’d get there before team runs and we’d do some drills. We’d get our footwork in and they just embraced it every step of the way, and I think it’s going to pay off for them.”

To a large degree, the Yellow Jackets need that work to begin paying off soon. With Davis, the starter at tight end last season and an exceptional leader, now gone, the tight end spot belongs largely to Deveney and Leonard, now sophomores, the latter a walk-on. While not targeted often, Davis caught 17 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown and was an effective pass and run blocker.

When spring practice begins Tuesday, Deveney and Leonard will seek to make good on the lessons imparted to them by Davis.

They have the tools. Deveney is 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds. Leonard is 6-5, 215. In high school, both played baseball and Deveney was a star basketball player, too. It is a testament to their potential that it appears that Tech will not seek to bolster the position through the transfer portal.

“Deveney’s very athletic for his size, very shifty, too, for his size,” Davis said. “And Leonard is freaky shifty and runs great routes.”

Deveney caught six passes for 48 yards. Leonard caught two for six yards. They were beneficiaries of coach Geoff Collins’ “Above the Line” strategy to find playing time for the players deemed ready to contribute, spreading out snaps and developing experience among more players.

Their role as downfield targets may develop more easily, as that was their strength in high school. (Deveney actually played only 1-1/2 seasons of high-school football in New Jersey, including one season at a post-graduate prep school. Leonard was a favorite target of Tech quarterback Jordan Yates at Milton High.) But, certainly, tight ends coach Chris Wiesehan will have to develop them as an extension of the offensive line, lining up in a three-point stance outside of the tackles and contributing both in blocking for the run and pass.

It will mean developing technically and deepening their understanding of the nuances of the blocking schemes but also continuing to make strength gains.

This spring, it appears that Luke Johns will move from the defensive line to tight end. With Deveney the only scholarship tight end on the roster this spring, there could be opportunity to challenge for playing time. Walk-ons include Josh Tukes and Joseph Macrina. Collins added one tight end in the signing class, Billy Ward from Locust Grove High in Henry County.

Going forward, Deveney and Leonard will be tasked with making their own the habits that Davis and Cooksey instilled. For instance, the tight ends met early Sunday mornings after games to review game video, arriving even before the coaches did. In November, Davis said that if he saw them “sitting around for more than 10 minutes, I make them get up and do something because you’re just wasting time.”

The two Dylans met the standard.

“I’m just proud of those guys, the freshmen,” Davis said. “As a freshman, I know that I wouldn’t want to be kind of bossed around by a senior. But I think they see how much I care about them. I think that’s the most important thing. I want them to be better than I am, because I know they can be.”

THE SERIES

• Monday: Special teams
• Tuesday: Defensive line
• Wednesday: Linebackers
• Thursday: Defensive backs
• Friday: Offensive line
• Saturday: Tight ends
• Sunday: Quarterbacks
• Monday: Wide receivers
• Tuesday: Running backs