It’s easy to overlook Southern’s tight ends because the Jaguars have so many playmakers elsewhere on offense.
And that’s just what Southern hopes opponents will do.
Even with senior Bradley Coleman working more at wide receiver this preseason, the Jaguars still have viable threats in senior Montrell Jones and junior Dillon Beard.
Jones is built more like a traditional tight end than Beard, but both are capable of handling the variety of tasks Southern assigns to them.
“Montrell and Dillon can stretch the field vertically, and they’re good in the running game,” head coach Dawson Odums said. “That tight end position is becoming a unique position in football — being able to flex those guys out because they can run like receivers and being able to attach them to the line of scrimmage because they can block like offensive tackles.
“They’re a weapon for us, and we’re expecting big things from them. That’s why we always try to keep one of them on the field. They give us options in the passing game, big targets in the red zone and guys that have a high football IQ.”
Last season, the Jaguars completed 147 passes to eight different wide receivers, 36 to Coleman, Jones and Beard, and 22 to three different running backs.
The tight ends’ productivity was almost evenly divided as each had one touchdown reception, Jones had 16 catches for a 10.5-yard average, Beard had 11 catches for a 12.3 average and Coleman nine catches for an 11-yard average.
Southern will usually have one and sometimes two tight ends on the field because even though it has half a dozen wide receivers in the rotation, it won’t be using a traditional fullback. The tight ends may line up on the end of the line of scrimmage, in the slot, out wide or in front of the running back.
“They bring different skill sets,” tight ends coach LaQuade Manago said. “Montrell is the blocking type of tight end, but he also can get out in space and catch passes. Dillon is a guy we like to put out in space because he’s a former receiver and a free safety coming out of high school. They’re different guys, but we can use them at two different spots and try and get mismatches on the defense.”
Though Jones is one class ahead of Beard, they’re both in their second seasons at Southern. Jones, a native of Milwaukee, transferred from Rochester Community College for last season, and Beard, who played at Zachary High School, joined the team last season after one semester at Baton Rouge Community College to get his academics in order.
“I understand coverages, I understand how my assignment will change if the defense rolls, so I just play faster now,” Jones said. “Dillon has come a long way. He’s kind of like my little brother. Last season was his first time ever playing tight end, and he impressed. I always tell him that when I leave here I want to leave a big impact on him.”
Jones and Beard hope to have a bigger impact in the passing game as opponents focus on the wide receivers and running backs.
“It creates a lot of opportunities for me and Montrell and the younger tight ends (freshmen Tedric White and Austin Opara),” Beard said. “So we’re going to take what they give to us.”
Beard’s academic situation scared off some colleges as did his six-year commitment to the National Guard, which has three years remaining.
“Dillon is always, ‘yes sir and no sir,’ ” Manago said. “He comes to meetings not only on time but early. He’s always eager to learn. You can tell that he comes from a good background. You can tell he comes from the National Guard. He’s very reliable and dependable, so you can expect him to get the job done.”