Gone from the tight end room are 3 experienced players in Kendall Couamin, Canon Smith, and Will Johnson who all graduated following the 2016 season. What remains are all freshmen and one sophomore in a room full of inexperience. 6 of the 7 tight ends on the roster are in either their first or second year in the program. The only exception is redshirt-sophomore Zac Foutz who is entering his
TE #40 Zac Foutz R-Sophomore 6’4″ 250 Roanoke, VA
TE #89 Daniel Zapata R-Freshman 6’2″ 255 Guttenburg, NJ
TE #88 Jerome Jackson Freshman 6’5″ 215 Fort Worth, TX
TE #18 Fidel Ogbeifun Freshman 6’3″ 225 Douglasville, GA
TE #85 Josh Reichenbach R-Freshman 6’1″ 205 Philadelphia, PA
TE #49 Anthony Duran R-Freshman 6’2″ 235 Petoskey, MI
TE #80 Michael Bollinger Freshman 6’1″ 225 Spartanburg, SC
FB #36 Thomas Kennedy R-Senior 5’11” 240 Roanoke, VA
FB #42 Will Tawney Freshman 6’2″ 230 Salem, VA
3rd season with the team.
Couamin and Smith combined for 23 catches for 275 yards and a touchdown a season ago. Meanwhile, Foutz, the only returning tight end with any playing experience, has 1 catch in his collegiate career. That one catch was a 4th and goal from the 1 yard line touchdown catch in a game last season.
Foutz has battled injuries off and on during his career, but he will be counted on this year to man the ship at tight end. He came into the program highly recruited, and after redshirting and spending a year behind a few veterans, he’s ready to take the next step.
“I think Zac’s matured very quickly, and we needed him to,” senior fullback Thomas Kennedy said of Foutz. “Last year he didn’t get to see the field a whole lot, but, when he did, he learned the offense. He knows the offense very well, the ins and outs of it. He’s healthy now. I think he’ll have a big year this year.”
Gill expects Zac to have a big year in 2017. “I anticipate him being a factor, more prevalent, in the passing game and the running game. This is going to be a big year for him.”
Behind Foutz is redshirt-freshman Daniel Zapata, who came into the program as an offensive lineman, but transitioned to tight end prior to spring practice.
With the loss of 3 seniors and very little depth behind them, the Flames’ coaching staff made tight end a priority while recruiting for the class of 2017. They brought in two highly sought after prospects in Jerome Jackson and Fidel Ogbeifun.
“Even though it’s early (in camp), the reason why we recruited them is
obvious,” Liberty tight end and fullbacks coach Scott Downing said. “We’re going to ease them in, spoon feed them to begin with.”
With the lack of depth and experience at the position, either Jackson or Ogbeifun will play as true freshmen and maybe both of them will see game action this year.
At fullback, redshirt-senior Thomas Kennedy provides the Flames with valuable experience and versatility. Liberty’s offense doesn’t utilize the fullback much, as evidenced by Thomas’ 5 touches (4 receptions & 1 rush) during his career, but he has seen playing time in 34 games. Kennedy will also likely see playing time at tight end as well as Coach Downing treats the two positions similarly.
“As (Coach Downing) says in meetings all the time, ‘yeah it might be a tight end body in or a fullback body in, but the Y has to be able to play fullback and fullback has to be able to play Y.’ In this offense, there’s really not much difference (between the two positions).”