Rutgers tight ends compete for starting spot

<p>Senior tight end Nick Arcidiacano tops the depth chart at his position midway through the spring. He had 12 catches for 92 yards last season.</p>

Senior tight end Nick Arcidiacano tops the depth chart at his position midway through the spring. He had 12 catches for 92 yards last season.

The tight ends on the Rutgers football team wouldn’t be blamed for breaking a sweat when they heard head coach Chris Ash make it clear he wanted to bring a spread offense to the Banks after more than a decade of pro-style offense.

The spread is a fast-paced offense that often indicates a heavier emphasis on the passing game, an area of the game where tight ends aren’t as important as the run game.

But their worries, if they had any, are now gone halfway through the spring. In fact, they’re relishing the new offense after adjusting to it.

“Obviously, at the beginning of spring, it won’t be as sharp as you want it to be, but now, practice eight, it’s coming along real nice,” said senior tight end Nick Arcidiacono following practice Saturday. “I think we’re picking it up pretty easily and like I said, we love the fast-paced, high energy of practice and we all feed off it, so that’s helped us as well.”

The Holland, Pennsylvania, native is currently at the head of the depth chart in his position, according to special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Vince Okruch, with juniors Matt Flanagan and Charles Scarff trailing shortly behind. The order isn’t set in stone, however, as Okruch said it changes daily.

Flanagan suffered an injury in his left pointer that required surgery, forcing him to miss a pair of practices. Okruch, who has been coaching football for more than 35 years, said he’d never seen an injury like it before.

“I won’t show you guys a picture of it,” Flanagan said. “From where the nail starts off, it was just detached. They sewed it back on and here I am … It’s gotten better … now that it’s healed a little more, I’m pretty much as comfortable as I am. I’ve been pretty much full go since then.”

The Knights are still working out the kinks of learning the new offense in which they’re asked to do a multitude of things in addition to blocking at the line of scrimmage, including playing fullback and lining up in the slot and in motion.

“In this offense (tight ends) do a lot of different things,” Okruch said. “They line up a lot of different places. So far, so good with learning the system. I think right now we need to get back into being fundamentally sound. There was a lot of mental stuff we had to go through early on, and they’ve done a nice job with it.”

Both Arcidiacono and Flanagan expressed their comfort in performing the many tasks asked of them, citing the experience they picked up from last season.

“You have to be a more versatile tight end. A lot of times last year, that was me,” Arcidiacono said. “I was that guy, I was going in motion a lot, I was playing fullback, tight end, I was playing in the slot so the versatility is something that I was excited coming in because I felt I had that versatility and I’ve shown that, so that also adds to the excitement coming into the spring this year.”

Barring a medical redshirt, this fall will be Arcidiacono's last in a Rutgers jersey. 

While he always put forward a full effort in practice in his career in Piscataway, knowing this is his last go adds an extra incentive.

“It’s my last spring and also, I just know I gotta go as hard as I can,” he said. “I just gotta treat every practice like it’s my last practice. I’ve tried to do it my whole career, but I think now especially it’s in the front of my mind.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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