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Missouri Football Spring Previews: How will tight ends Sean Culkin and Jason Reese be used?

Spring football practices are just around the corner. Today, we're looking at the tight end position.

Jason Reese
Jason Reese
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tight Ends

Seniors Juniors Sophomores Freshman Class of 2016
Sean Culkin (R) 6'6 245 Jason Reese (R) 6'5 240 Kendall Blanton (R) 6'6 250 Albert Okwuegbunam 6'5 215



Brendan Scales 6'4 230
Gone:

None

Returning Starters:

Sean Culkin (16-139, 1 TD), Jason Reese (15-126, 0 TD)

Other Returnees:

Kendall Blanton

Newcomers:

Albert Okwuegbunam, Brendan Scales, Early Enrollees: None

Recap: Remember last fall, when Sean Culkin and Jason Reese dubbed themselves "1080p" because "Everything we do is in HD"?

Culkin rebounded from a bout with drops in 2014 to have a strong first half of 2015, just like I guessed, before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for a few games. Jason Reese hinted at some chemistry with Drew Lock late in the season and, because he was a better blocker, provided Mizzou with some positional flexibility by lining up in the backfield to help the struggling run game.

Predictions: Culkin will be listed as the starter, primarily flexed out wide since he's a better receiver than blocker. Reese will rotate heavily with Culkin as a flexed Y and a fullback, or "B-back" hybrid role where we might also see freshman Brendan Scales. Kendall Blanton remains a backup for another year but could see the field in goal line scenarios due to his height. I envision this formation being a staple of the running game next year:

Tight End

LT

LG

C

RG

RT


Flex-Y End

Jason Reese







Sean Culkin




QB








Drew Lock

"B-Back"







RB

Brendan Scales







Nate Strong





What to Watch: Does Josh Heupel’s new offensive scheme reintroduce tight ends and fullbacks to Mizzou fans? I’ve been a particularly big fan of Ian Boyd’s work on "B-backs" and hybrid tight ends -- he focused a lot on the Big 12, where Heupel is coming from. Will we see that influence? Culkin was having a decent year before injuries and an offensive implosion submarined his season, but Heupel probably envisions a schematic overhaul versus simply increasing targets. That likely means more formational flexibility and motion as well as different routes and checkdowns that see the tight ends and fullbacks used to stress pass rushers and underneath coverages. But that also means a bigger role in blocking for the run game, something Culkin has struggled with throughout his career.

Dan Keegan: Last season the tight ends had the flashy nickname. This year they’ll have the production to pair with it. Expect a significantly bigger role in the offense for 1080P in 2016. With such a complete overhaul on the coaching staff and offensive line personnel, we will not be 100% sure on any prognostications regarding Mizzou’s offense until September. (Frankly, I’m going to keep that disclaimer in my pocket for every positional preview this week). That said, with such a swath of unknowns across the board, it seems likely that Josh Heupel will find a safety valve in his, well, safety valves. Culkin has never become the receiving star tight end that blossomed in the Gary Pinkel era, but he will wrap up a fine Missouri career and always seemed to have a knack for timely grabs on third down.

Brendan Scales is not in camp for the spring, but I will be looking for a void that he could potentially fill by the fall. Scales has impressive size and an impressive pedigree, and I have long been in the tank for the tight end passing game. (I am still driving the Victor Sesay bandwagon, one decade later).