June 13, 2002

The East's new lethal weapon

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Jeremy Shockey of the Miami Hurricanes showed everyone exactly what a dynamic tight end can do for an offense with his 40 catches, 519 yards and seven scores last season in leading his team to the national championship. And while some teams are content to use their tight ends as a sixth offensive linemen, others use them as a lethal weapon. This year in the Eastern and Atlantic area, unlike any in recent memory, there are a slew of dynamic tight ends for teams to choose from.

Starting up North, college coaches will find arguably the best tight end prospect in the country and the type of talent that comes along once every few years in the state of New Jersey.

With more than 40 offers already, Wayne Hills, N.J., superstar Greg Olsen has his choice destinations.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder is not only a game-breaking receiver with awesome speed for his size, but he's also a dominant blocker and disruptive defender.

Even though he wasn't the first option on offense as a junior and his brother Chris (Notre Dame signee) probably didn't throw to him as much as he should have to avoid favoritism, Greg still caught 21 passes for 490 yards and 10 touchdowns.

It's scary to think of the numbers he'll amass this year as the team's top option on offense.

Olsen currently has plans to visit Notre Dame, Syracuse, Miami and perhaps either Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers, Maryland or Nebraska, but most feel the Irish would have to drop the ball - so to speak - in a huge way to lose out on this potential franchise tight end.

Moving to the West, State College (Pa.) State College Area tight end Jonathan Stupar can be found in the shadow of Beaver Stadium.

However, the Nittany Lions are a longshot for the services of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound stud as out-of-state powers like Florida State, Ohio State, UCLA and Michigan State have all offered as well as about 20 others. The Seminoles have the edge and Stupar, a very athletic tight end with great hands, already has an official visit set to Tallahassee for October 26.

Stupar has also shown a great deal of interest in Virginia, but he hasn't eliminated anyone just yet. Look for Stupar to narrow down his choices by the beginning of his senior season and take all of his official visits before committing. As a junior, Stupar had 29 catches for 340 yards and eight scores.

Moving South just a bit, you'll find the rare combination of strength and speed in an unlikely looking package. At 6-foot-5 and only 200 pounds, Wheeling (W.V.) Wheeling Park tight end Nicholas Stefanow looks like he could use a sandwich or two.

However, looks can be deceiving as Stefanow is one of the strongest pound-for-pound players in the east. At the Penn State Nike Camp, Stefanow finished fifth in the bench press competition by putting up 25 reps at 185 pounds. His maximum bench press is more than 340 pounds and he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

He doesn't have the offers that Olsen and Stupar have, but playing in West Virginia and his lack of girth won't hold him back for long. He likes Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Marshall, West Virginia and Duke and caught six touchdown passes during his junior year.

College coaches have known about the fastest tight end on the east coast for quite some time. Washington (D.C.) Dunbar superstar Vernon Davis has been talked about since his sophomore season as one to watch and didn't disappoint as a junior with 35 catches for 375 yards and 10 scores.

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Davis isn't huge but his 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash and Shannon Sharpe-like athleticism have brought him more than 20 offers so far.

While he plays a mean safety on defense and could be a linebacker in college as well, most schools want his talents on offense. Maryland has the clear edge in this race but don't expect teams like Virginia, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Penn State and Syracuse among others to give up easily.

Moving just a bit Southwest to round out our dynamic group of tight ends, the ultimate sleeper lurks at Forest (Va.) Jefferson Forest. 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end Jon Hamlett not only acts as a sixth lineman for his offense, but he also caught 22 passes for 355 yards and a touchdown.

The thing about Hamlett is that he is just scratching the surface of his offensive potential and could become a star in college and beyond. North Carolina has already received his commitment, but that doesn't mean that teams like Virginia and Virginia Tech have given up on him.

Hamlett runs very well for his size, has good hands and is an absolute load to bring down after the catch. Players like Olsen, Stupar and Davis might have all the offers, but Hamlett holds his own with this group.



 

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