The Washington Times - August 14, 2011, 10:10AM

The second of 10 positional breakdowns as Maryland’s Sept. 5 opener against Miami approaches.

Maryland’s tight ends unit will look a bit different from this time last year.

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That’s not just because Lansford Watson, who didn’t play in 2010 because of injury, is gone. Or that Will Yeatman is in camp with the New England Patriots after reviving his football career with an 11-game stint in College Park. Or that Devonte Campbell hasn’t become reacquainted with the exercise bike he gave a name to last season.

Certainly, all those have some influence on the Terrapins’ different image at the position. But there’s also a new offensive coordinator with Gary Crowton’s arrival, and it’s tough to really read into his plans for the position.

At Louisiana State a year ago (where Crowton was the offensive coordinator), tight ends managed a rather tepid 24 catches for 301 yards. That’s certainly less production from the position than Maryland fans have come to enjoy for most of the last seven years.

MARYLAND TIGHT END PRODUCTION, 2001-2010

Year  
Rec.   
Yards   
TD  
2001192011
2002111012
2003181971
2004365163
2005619517
2006515284
2007545973
2008 
404203
2009272370
2010303962

 

But go back to Crowton’s two-year stint at Oregon, before he found himself in Les Miles‘ wacky vortex of play-to-play conservatism mixed a penchant for risk at crucial junctures, and tight ends were at least targeted more frequently than they were in Crowton’s time in Baton Rouge.

In 2005, Tim Day and Dante Rosario combined for 40 receptions, 383 yards and three touchdowns for the Ducks. A year later, Rosario hauled in 42 receptions, 426 yards and a touchdown by himself.

Whatever spread offense influence Crowton used at Oregon, it wasn’t a version absent a tight end (a la the Texas Tech Air Raid). And that bodes well for the four tight ends Crowton and the rest of Maryland’s new staff inherited.

The biggest winner could be incumbent starter Matt Furstenburg, who tied for fourth on the roster in times targeted last season:

2010 MARYLAND TIGHT END PRODUCTION (x-not on 2011 team)

PlayerTargets   
Catches   
Yards   
TD  
Matt Furstenburg   
26122061
x-Will Yeatman
15131341
Dave Stinebaugh
74420
Devonte Campbell
11140

 

Furstenburg hauled in catches less than half the time, which a bit low for a tight end. But he was particularly effective on third down, turning all four of his receptions in that situation into first downs (while amassing 111 yards and his lone touchdown, a 27-yard strike against Morgan State).

For certain, Crowton inherits a capable blocker in Furstenburg, and that’s always the sort of skill a tight end needs to stay on the field. It will be curious to find out whether Campbell can do the same after a mostly lost sophomore season.

A knee injury certainly that cost him much of camp and the first four did not help matters. Campbell wasn’t targeted with a pass until the penultimate game of the regular season. Still, his speed (a 4.58 40-yard dash this spring) and frame (6-foot-2, 255 pounds) suggest he could prove exceptionally valuable if he can emerge as a consistent threat.

Just as Campbell returned last year, Dave Stinebaugh was shelved with knee and shoulder injuries. He broke through as a viable target in his last two appearances – against Florida International and Duke – but missed the last eight games because of his health issues and didn’t participate in spring practice following surgery.

That isn’t an ideal start, but Stinebaugh can’t be discounted from contributing as a sophomore.

Nor should junior Ryan Schlothauer, who is the first Maryland walk-on tight end to earn a scholarship since Joey Haynos. Schlothauer doesn’t quite possess Haynos’ size, but he’s still an imposing 6-foot-5. He’s bulked up a bit, going from a listed weight of 230 pounds in 2009 to 250 pounds entering this season.

Schlothauer made an impression on special teams a year ago, working on the kickoff return team as well as serving as a tight end on the field goal unit. He should continue to make contributions in similar (and maybe the same) roles, and his size could make him an inviting red zone target if the Terps opt to deploy him in that manner.

Chances are, all four will play in some form, especially with no other help at the position available during camp. And given Crowton’s history, the position is unlikely to fade into irrelevance in the passing game.

Patrick Stevens