For the first time in a number of years, Virginia Tech enters the fall without a known starting tight end. Instead, tight ends coach
Martin has been good enough to block at the ACC level for a number of years. That much hasn't changed and thus, he will be on the field at some capacity at this point. However, he's now entering his fifth year and the chances of him suddenly improving his pass catching abilities enough are slim. However, his blocking will keep him in the mix, either as a co-starter or a top backup.
Dunn is one of the most athletically gifted players on the team. He came to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver, but quickly made the move to tight end and has spent his entire career trying to become a good enough blocker.
With the incumbents that have been ahead of him over the years cleared out, Dunn was finally given the opportunity to show just how dangerous he can be in the passing game in the spring and he did just that. His effort in the redzone during one of the open scrimmages was flat-out impressive.
This is the kind of player that creates mismatches all over the field and he's not afraid to elevate over defenders to make a catch. If he could just prove to Stinespring that he is a solid blocker, he would run away from the field.
However, just like it's unlikely that Martin suddenly improves enough as a receiver, it is unlikely that Dunn will improve as a blocker. Just like Martin's blocking ability will get him on the field, so will Dunn's receiving talents.
Malleck played just 40 offensive snaps last year as a true freshman, but that experience in live games and the experience he gained by practicing with the varsity every week accelerated his development enough to put him in the conversation this fall. His future is definitely as a talented two-way tight end, but whether he can reach his full potential in 2012 remains to be seen.
That's what August is going to be about for Malleck. No one denies he has talent. But is it enough to overtake a combination of Martin's blocking and Dunn's receiving? We'll see.
Ultimately, I believe Stinespring will go with a mishmash rotation of Dunn, Martin, and Malleck. There are enough skills and tools available from those three to put together a rotation that takes advantage of each skill set while not giving away the play-call whenever Dunn (pass) or Martin (run) steps on the field.
Dunn's ability to haul in touchdowns in the redzone could be particularly dangerous, as he was downright nasty down the seams during the spring, In fact, I could see him taking some snaps from Corey Fuller as a defacto #4 receiver this fall in the slot.