Q&A by tight end and special teams coach Eric Link

Tight ends and teams coach Eric Link Talking about what tight ends should do better in 2023, what Ryan Horstkamp Brings to the situation, what Luther Bearden III Needs improvement as return gamble and more.

How does it feel to be back for another year of spring football?

“It’s a great feeling. In fact it just seems to get faster and faster every year. And then, once you’re out on the field and rolling, it’s always nice to get back on the turf with the guys for sure.”

– From a range of practices, what tight ends have you encountered so far?

“Honestly, I think they’ve all done a great job. I think we’ve made great strides in the right direction. I would say Max Wisner He’s such a young kid you could tell he really took advantage of his redshirt season and benefited from it. From a physical point of view, it is far as it should be. He’s been here for a year, so he’s definitely a one-man. I suspect Tyler Stevens He does some really good stuff. I think Ryan Hoerstkamp 一 they’ve all done a good job just being consistent. Day in and day out, keep taking steps and steps forward instead of steps back.”

Defensive line coach Al Davis said he wanted his group to have two players in one location and work in tandem instead of just having one player play all the shots at that location. Is this a model that you want to follow to have a #1 tight end and a #2 tight end or something?

“I mean, ideally, you want to have the diversity within an individual to play multiple tight end positions. But, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so trying to build on those strengths and strengthen those weaknesses is really what you’re trying to do. So, The guy’s skill set – he probably comes across more as a gifted receiver than as a blocker. Well, we have to make sure that we continue to evolve those blocking abilities. We have to make sure that we don’t ask him to do things he’s not good at yet. So, to answer your question, we want to have the diversity And the ability with our guys to be able to do multiple things. But at the end of the day, guys definitely have certain skill sets and that’s really what we’re going to build on.”

– What did you see from kicker Blake Craig?

“He was really positive. There’s no doubt we were really excited to get Blake in here. He’s a very talented player. He’s done really great in four practices and he’s all fresh. He still has to be a freshman in high school, but he Definitely taking steps in the right direction. He’s done a really great job and we’re definitely grateful to have him here.”

– What are you looking for to get out of Luther’s burden in the second year as a gambling return?

“I think the number one thing with Luther is we know he’s talented. I think he’s one of the most gifted ball-carriers in our team in any position. But I would say one of his main weaknesses was just his decision-making. The tremendous quality you have to have in that position which You come with experience and put yourself in those situations to make those decisions and understand that you don’t necessarily have to force it.You can let the game come to you and when you get take advantage of the opportunity, but the No. 1 goal of the punt return team and the starting team is to make sure we give the ball to offense. We want to be explosive. We want to be dynamic. We want to have the ability to generate returns, but at the end of the day we have to make sure the offense gets the ball back.”

– When he was making mistakes as a rookie, how do you deal with that as a coach?

“You have to coach it and correct it. You have to coach it and try to educate about these situations really before they happen as much as you can. But there is no greater teacher in probably any sport, but certainly in football, than experience. You go back and watch Luther in high school, I didn’t know that 10-12 rebounds kick the ball for touchdowns specifically.

“So it’s quite different, you’re going to catch more balls in the air at that level than you’re going to pull one off the ground. I say that vs. Abilene Christian, on his first touch, the ball hit the ground一 and that’s when I knew we were cooking in fat because I knew that This is what this guy is used to but you have to get it right. You have to train him and continue to educate these guys about these situations as they arise.”

Hoesrtkamp flashed during the New Mexico State game. If he reached his potential, what could this crime be?

“Ryan was a guy who came out of high school probably as a receiver. He played more on the perimeter than at heart. So, I think the biggest adjustment for Ryan is just learning to play the whole tight end position. He has really good skills on the ball and the ability to make plays. But just becoming a cutting player to be able to execute as a blocker, but also make plays as a receiver that we want him to make.

“Ryan focused on getting better every day and I know that might sound cliche, but that has to be all our focus. I think he has the ability to make plays. I think he brings a lot to the table, but Ryan works to become quite the tight end. Sometimes it takes It takes some time and some physical and mental maturity.”

– Does this include Ryan’s bulge due to the nature of the situation?

“Yeah, I mean I don’t think Ryan is going to be a 260-pound guy. I think now he’s as heavy as he ever was. I think the other day he weighed 245 or 246 pounds. There’s a fine line between getting too big and losing a few games.” “Athletic or some speed, but you’re absolutely right. You’re going to play at the core of the lineup in the Southeastern Conference—there are some grown men out there so you better be able to get the physicality of the game and carry the physicality of the game.”

– To watch the tight finale Hall of Fame step forward next season, what’s the most important thing you want to see right now with this group?

“Just consistency. I mentioned this earlier to someone else, but there is no greater teacher than experience. This group that came in last year was really inexperienced. There was very little pickup played in that position. So, I think we gained a lot from Experience, good or bad.So, that was a great teacher for us.But just the consistency of our play.At all stages.

I mean, the tight final position is one of the hardest positions to play in my opinion and value because we ask them to do a lot. They have to overshadow not only the periphery but the heart. They must pass protection, they must be able to run lanes and they must have good ball skills to make plays on the ball. Therefore, they have to master a lot of skill sets and that takes time. These guys work hard and keep developing that, but I think consistency of play day in and day out is really what we’re looking for.”

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