Tight end: WSU's position of strength

RICH RASMUSSEN and  DEVIN FRISCHKNECHT

PULLMAN -- Washington State is sending a standout tight end off to an NFL training camp for the third straight year, as Jed Collins follows in the footsteps of Cody Boyd, who followed Troy Bienemann. Yet despite that steady talent drain, three weeks of spring workouts suggest strongly that the tight end position remains one of the stoutest units in Pullman.

First-year WSU tight ends coach Rich Rasmussen said Thursday after practice that he has great confidence in his group.

"I'm really comfortable with the two seniors in Devin Frischknecht and Ben Woodard," he said. "The two of them have played a lot of football, so they've got a good understanding. Tony Thompson probably is the hardest worker of the tight-end group. He picks stuff up really fast and he's bustin' his butt out there. He is going to contribute and be a big part of what we do."


RICH RASMUSSEN

Along with depth and work ethic, the group's versatility and overall football smarts are other strengths, said Rasmussen.

Frischknecht, who caught 18 passes last season -- including two Apple Cup TDs – has the athletic ability, plus the size (6-3, 256 pounds), to be a key part of the passing game, Rasmussen said. The 6-5, 244-pound Woodard is a prototypical blocking tight end but has good hands as well. He played in 12 games last season and caught eight passes. Thompson (6-1, 236), a starting long snapper the last two seasons, has not caught a pass in a real game but may have the well-rounded skills to fill Rasmussen's H-back role.

Rasmussen shed some light on what fans should expect from the tight end in the no-huddle offense.

"We'll line them up in the traditional tight end spots, we'll move them around … like an h-back type, and occasionally we might line them up out in the slot or in the backfield. Those are all game-plan things that we'll decide week-to-week and how we're going to use them to attack opponents' weaknesses," Rasmussen says.

As he sees it, the talent and experience of his top three tight ends will be crucial to the offense's success, especially in the early part of the season when the rest of the O is still developing.

NOTABLE: Besides Frischknecht, Woodard and Thompson, the tight end includes Trevor Mooney (6-6, 250), Aaron Gehring (6-5, 237) and Mikel Overgaard (6-5, 235). Mooney and Gehring are third-year sophomores and Overgaard a second-year freshman. Mooney is from Mission Viejo, Calif. Gehring, from Castle Rock, and Overgaard, from Weiser, Idaho, are walk ons.

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