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Pair of tight ends struggle to produce in offense

Rutgers head football coach called D.C. Jefferson a physical specimen, and Paul Carrezola described himself as a technician at the line of scrimmage.

Those attributes would be fine if the junior and sophomore tight ends, respectively, made up just one player.

They are not, and the constant shuffling at tight end left the Scarlet Knights without a consistent playmaker at the position since 2006, Clark Harris’ senior season.

“I don’t know. They’re different roles,” Schiano said. “There are certain things that [Jefferson] can do. There are certain things we’d rather have Paul do. I like the way they play off each other. It’s a ham and egg combination that I really like.”

Jefferson arrived at Rutgers in 2008 as a highly coveted quarterback prospect who de-committed from LSU.

He did not pan out at quarterback when Rutgers lacked a veteran signal caller, and Schiano redshirted Jefferson and moved him to tight end entering his redshirt freshman season.

The 6-foot-6 Jefferson thought he knew enough about the position early in the process to make an impact, but tight ends coach Brian Angelichio’s arrival from Pittsburgh changed his mentality, he said.

“I think I’ve improved a lot because early on, I thought I had it down pat,” Jefferson said. “But until Coach Angelichio came over, I realized that there were a lot more things I could’ve worked on and been doing at the time when I was younger.”

Carrezola joined the program a year later from Neshaminy (Pa.) High School, a program known for churning out quality college prospects.

Schiano picked up commitments from both Carrezola and Malcolm Bush in the 2009 recruiting class, but Bush has yet to materialize as a redshirt sophomore.

Despite their respective résumés, neither Jefferson nor Carrezola developed two years later into consistent threats for the Knights offense. They own a combined four catches this season for 35 yards.

“We have great receivers. I don’t think it’s a concern,” Carrezola said of the tight ends’ lack of catches. “We’re going to keep playing hard and keep doing our job.”

The Knights’ lack of a downfield threat at tight end forced them to compensate in other areas, namely their wide receiving corps.

Junior Mohamed Sanu hauled in a team-high 20 catches this season, but for only 187 yards –– a 9.4-yard average. Most of those receptions occurred in the middle of the field, where a tight end normally sits.

“Me and Paul are two good tight ends,” Jefferson said. “It’s good having two tight ends on the field and being able to execute our running game better.”

But the Rutgers running game regressed in Game 2, when it netted just one yard and failed to convert twice from the North Carolina goal line.

Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti’s gameplan did not require the pair of tight ends to stay in to pass protect, so its offensive production did not skew in that regard.

While Jefferson earned some targets in the redzone in back-to-back weeks, his 6-foot-6, 258-pound frame was an indicator he deserved more looks there earlier in his career.

But the Winter Haven, Fla., native consistently dropped passes in two seasons at tight end, and his lack of prior knowledge at the position showed.

Schiano maintains that Jefferson shows flashes of the ability that made him an SEC recruit.

“D.C. is getting better,” Schiano said. “So is Paul, which is the most important thing. They both continue to get better. I thought D.C. had a really good [bye] week.”

Perhaps Angelichio and Cignetti’s arrivals mark the beginning of a revamped emphasis on the tight end position in the pass game.

But Jefferson and Carrezola are not Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham, who turned careers at Pittsburgh to stints in the NFL.

Jefferson never imagined in a million years he would end up at tight end in college, he said. Through two seasons at the position, it is not hard to see why.

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