Nov 2, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end Clive Walford (46) carries up the field past Florida State Seminoles linebacker Telvin Smith (22) during the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Hurricanes Football Preview: Tight Ends

Last season, the Canes had a good offensive season and had a lot of different wide receivers catch passes. The one thing that seemed to lack last season was a consistent production out of the tight end position. Some of that blame goes to Stephen Morris, who is notoriously known for avoiding his tight ends down the middle of the field.

Not all the blame could be put on Morris, however, and the tight end position is built to produce this season. It’s time for them to step up and produce. Beau Sandland is looking to put together a big year in his final year of eligibility and Clive Walford also decided to return for his senior season, so he’s trying to have a big final season as well. The Canes also brought in a couple of freshmen tight ends and even made some strange interesting moves.

The tight end position is improved, but how good can they be? I think the answer is very good.

The New Guy

Christopher Herndon IV – 3 stars

Herndon was a good get by the staff in this past class. He picked Miami over schools like Auburn and Mississippi State, but he’s still raw. At 6’4 225, Herndon will have to put up some more weight and learn the playbook before he gets on the field. This is a likely redshirt, but with time, he could be a good tight end for the Canes.

Check out his highlight film page here.

The Impact Players

Clive Walford - Senior

Clive Walford was the only tight end on the team that found success last season. He was responsible for 34 of the 47 passes caught out of the position. He became a first down getting machine early in the season, and at one point, was actually a consistent target for Stephen Morris and the offense.

After the bowl game loss against Louisville, Walford was thinking about entering the draft, but after gathering his thoughts, he decided to stay in Coral Gables and come back for his senior season. Walford shared time with Asante Cleveland last season, but he seems to be the starter heading into camp. He has Beau Sandland sniffing right behind him, so he’ll need a strong camp and strong start to the season to keep his spot.

Beau Sandland - Senior

Beau Sandland was the number one rated JUCO tight end in the country in 2012, and although his first season at Miami wasn’t the best, there’s still a lot of optimism surrounding the 6’6 255 pound tight end. Sandland is a really gifted pass catcher and he’s tough when he gets the ball in his hands. Clive Walford seems to be penciled in as the starter to start off camp, but a good showing by Sandland in camp could open up some discussion.

Sandland only had 9 catches for 94 yards last season, so he needs to build on that and I believe he will. With a new starter at quarterback, the tight end position could become a nice security blanket for whoever wins that position during camp. Look for Sandland to have a good year, whether he starts or just splits snaps.

Standish Dobard – Sophomore

If you follow Standish Dobard on any social media, especially Instagram, you already know that this guy is hilarious. But besides being a funny guy off the field, he’s a pretty good tight end on the field. Dobard is 6’4 260 and he’s physically ready to make an impact for the Canes. With both Walford and Sandland in front of him, I don’t know how many snaps are available for Dobard early on, but I wouldn’t be surprised seeing him getting significant snaps as the season goes on.

The staff felt comfortable enough with him last season to not peg a redshirt on him, and they’ll be looking for him to build on his freshman year and break out this season. Dobard only had one catch for 15 yards last season against Savannah State, but it’s safe to say he’ll have some more catches this season. Or at least we all hope so.

No Longer On The Team

Asante Cleveland

Asante Cleveland made eight starts for the Canes last year, but he failed to make an impact for the team. He only accumulated 14 catches in his four years with Miami, 3 of those coming last season. Cleveland received the “Most Improved Player” award at the end of the season, but most Canes fans wish they would’ve seen some more pass catching production from the big tight end from Sacramento.

The Strange Additions

Gray Crow - Former Quarterback

Gray Crow spent his freshman season in Miami listed as a quarterback, but with limited opportunity at that position, he and the staff decided to place him out at tight end this fall. This is a likely redshirt, but it’s an intriguing move by Crow and staff. Not many guys switch a position they’ve played since high school, especially not quarterbacks. I hope Crow finds his way onto the field later in his career because I would love to see a former quarterback running over a linebacker.

Raphael Akpejiori - Former Basketball Player

I want to blame Jimmy Graham for being so good at basketball for this constantly happening and people asking if he’s “the next Jimmy Graham.” Akpejiori was a decent role player for the Canes basketball team the last four years and he has no previous football experience. So no, he’s not Jimmy Graham. And yes I know that Erik Swoope has been doing his thing over with the Indianapolis Colts, too.

Akpejiori, however, is 6’9 and all 241 pounds of him can get up there and grab a jump ball. If nothing else, this move is incredibly intriguing. The staff was looking to add depth and by bringing Akpejiori in, they’ve done that. It might work, or it may not work, but I know Akpejiori and I know that he’ll work hard and hopefully he’ll be dunking through goal posts after touchdowns like some other guy we know.

Grade

B+ picture

 

 

 

The tight end position should be much improved from last year’s group. You have two seniors who are talented and a sophomore who is looking to emerge into a key contributor. I think the arrival of a new quarterback will help this group get some more catches and I expect one of these guys to establish themselves as the dominant player at the position. For the Canes to be successful this season, they’ll need a tight end that can help free out the talented wide receivers on the squad. And I fully expect it.

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