We continue our position review of the Huskies by examining one of the more intriguing spots on the roster — tight end.
POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART
TE — Chris Izbicki, Jr./Kavario Middleton, Jr./Marlion Barnett, Fr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL
Michael Hartvigson, Fr.
Tight end featured one of the few changes in the starting lineup this spring due, apparently, solely for performance reasons as sophomore Chris Izbicki (pictured) ended the month ahead of junior Kavario Middleton.
Such designations are maybe a little bit more a matter of semantics at a position like tight end as Izbicki and Middleton will be used regularly throughout the season regardless of who starts — the Huskies use two tight ends often and also at times simply rotate depending on the situation.
But earning the starting nod at the end of the spring was obviously an indication of the continued improvement for Izbicki, who was one of the gems of UW’s recruiting Class of 2007, then saw his career get off to a slow start with a redshirt season and pretty much a wasted year in 2008.
Middleton, meanwhile, remains one of UW’s most physically talented players, and while some fans have been frustrated by his progress, it’s worth nothing he had 26 catches last year, the most for any Husky tight end since 2002 (when Kevin Ware had 42) and 13th best in school history.
The only other scholarship player at that spot in the spring was redshirt freshman Marlion Barnett, who had some decent moments. The Huskies also will welcome true freshman Michael Hartvigson at this position in the fall as UW coach Steve Sarkisian said again following spring practice that Hartvigson will start out at tight end.
UW also has a few walk-ons at this spot, notably Marek Domanski, who caught a 31-yard TD in the spring game.
Here’s how Sarkisian assessed the position at the end of the spring:
“I was impressed with Chris Izbicki. I think he’s had a great off-season and it continued into his play. He was consistent and I thought he got better in his blocking, and in turn I thought it made Kavario a better player. It’s pushing Kavario to places he hasn’t been before. So those two guys I thought did some really nice things. And Marlion Barnett played at times like a young guy with some of the mental mistakes, but flashed and showed some things of what his future can be like.”
Sarkisian’s comment about Izbicki’s blocking is telling as that was a particular focus of the coaches heading into the spring, hoping to improve the blocking at this position to help the running game.
Izbicki, in an interview near the end of spring, said that improved technique and condition helped him.
He said he weighed about 245 during the spring, up from about 235 last season.
“My redshirt freshman year (2008) I was around 250, and then I played last season about 235,” he said. “So I plan on playing next season about 245. That’s a better weight, a little more mass. That helped me out in the blocking game having an extra 10 pounds.”
He said of his condition that “I had a pretty good off-season so I’m right where I want to be strength wise. It’s helped me out on the field moving pads, blocking is a little bit easier with a little extra strength.”
Izbicki also said that being in the system for a second year has helped blocking — now that he’s more comfortable with the playbook, he can work more specifically on blocking.
“If you have good technique, it’s a lot easier to be a better blocker, so I think we have already gotten a lot better and gotten to the point that by the time the season rolls around, we should be doing a lot better in the run game,” he said.
Sarkisian said Izbicki moved to the No. 1 job this spring due largely to his consistency, something Izbicki said he understands is valued.
“I’m working to get that label (as starter) and hoping that the coaches can see that they trust you and you can make plays,” he said. “You are going to get your calls come the season, so that’s what I’m really trying to do is make them comfortable with what I’m doing and then you will get your calls come the fall.”
And he knows that the competition with Middleton will continue deep into fall camp.
“It’s always open,” he said. “The coaches make it that way. So it will be fun, be a good competition come this fall. We like to battle. It makes both of us better.”