By David Villavicencio
The tight end position is revered at the University of Miami.
Since 1985, the Hurricanes have had four First Team All-Americans at tight end in Willie Smith, Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow II. The 2003 Mackey Award winner, Winslow II was also named the nation’s best tight end following his junior year.
Add in stars like Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, and Clive Walford and it’s easy to see that the Hurricanes have produced arguably the greatest collection of tight ends in college football history.
But the current group of tight ends at Miami is led by a pair of talented players that could one day find themselves in the same class as the greats that came before them.
David Njoku and Christopher Herndon IV make up Miami’s formidable duo at tight end, combining for 48 catches, 709 receiving yards and six touchdowns over nine games this season.
“I have full trust in our tight ends with Chris and I,” Njoku said. “Chris gives it all he has every day in practice and the games. Whether the ball is in the air or we have to make an important block, I know we can trust Chris. He is a very reliable guy.
“As far as myself, I just do what I can do and try to perfect my craft every day,” Njoku said. “I try to work hard and focus on all aspects of being a tight end. I think Chris and I are important parts of this offense and we are going to continue to work and give everything we’ve got.”
Njoku played a key role in Miami’s 51-28 victory over Pittsburgh a week ago, hauling in six catches for a career-high 86 yards and two touchdowns. Herndon led the way at Notre Dame, catching five against the Fighting Irish, while Njoku snared four catches.
“We have been used more lately and that’s fun for us, but there are a lot of guys on this team that can help us,” Njoku said. “Being the tight ends that me and Chris are, we are a little more athletic, so we can be split out and run some receiver routes. I think we can block and make plays with the ball. We can create some mismatches and that’s exciting for us.”
The tight ends have been on display recently for Miami, but Njoku believes he and Herndon are just a small part of a dangerous Miami offense that will look to continue its success this Saturday against Virginia. The Hurricanes will face the Cavaliers at 2 p.m., in Charlottesville, Va.
“I think they’re better than their record,” Njoku said of Virginia. “I think they’re a pretty well coached team. The game should be interesting and fun. Very, very interesting.”
Despite their 2-7 record, Miami head coach Mark Richt knows his Hurricanes will face a motivated Virginia team on Saturday afternoon.
“I would just say they’re a very quality team,” Richt said. “I watched the tape and I think they’re a heck of a football team. … They’ve been playing their tails off. They have a bunch of close games that they’ve played as well. They’re trying to get things established under a new head coach. We know it’s going to be a challenge.”
Wide receiver Malcolm Lewis believes the Canes are focused on the right things heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Cavaliers.
“Right now we are taking it game-by-game, one game at a time,” Lewis said. “So right now we have Virginia and we are just trying to focus on Virginia right now.”
Miami will have defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson back in action against the Cavaliers and the redshirt sophomore is excited to rejoin his teammates as they look to secure their sixth win of the season.
“I’ll be happy to be back out there with my defensive brothers,” Jackson said. “I’ll just go out there play and try to get this W.”