Former quarterback Paul Piferi is the newest addition to the tight end group and said he made the transition after the summer.
One of Piferi’s biggest challenges was bulking up for the position.
“They tell me to eat at least five to six meals a day,” he said. “I have a fast metabolism which is killing me in the weight-gain process. It was tough at first, but I kind of enjoy it. I think I speak for a lot of people that would like to be in my situation.”
Tight ends coach Ryan Wallace said he feels confident about Piferi, and although blocking is something that is foreign to Piferi, he picked up route-running quickly.
His experience as a quarterback gives him a good understanding of the routes and an idea of where the quarterback is looking, Piferi said.
Giving up the position was tough, he said, because he had played in it for six years. He will do what is best for the team, whether that means playing quarterback, tight end or even safety, he joked.
After the loss of star tight end Brycen Hopkins to the Los Angeles Rams, the dynamic among the tight end lineup has changed.
Wallace said sophomore Payne Durham has emerged as the new leader among the position. With over 250 snaps under his belt, he is the de facto veteran of the lineup.
“Payne was kind of an afterthought for people,” Wallace said, “(but) he showed up. He has a tremendous knack for getting open. He can feel things that others don’t.”
Wallace and the tight ends all stressed the importance of having an all-around strong receiving core, including sophomores Rondale Moore and David Bell.
“The defense having their eyes on Rondale and Bell is definitely a plus for us,” tight end Garrett Miller said. “It’s definitely big for us to not be a big deal to them, so that we can be a secret weapon when they’re looking at Rondale and Bell.”
Even though the oldest tight end in the lineup is a sophomore, Wallace is not concerned that the youth will negatively affect the group.
Last year as freshmen reserves, Miller and Kyle Bilodeau saw the field and maintained their redshirt status.
“We were able to get Garrett and Kyle on the field last year with their four games and keep their redshirt,” Wallace said. “They were able to build some confidence late in the year.”