The Patriots created a wrinkle in their offense last season that used tight ends as a major part of their attack. It created record receiving numbers for the position and became a major reason why New England made it to the Super Bowl.
Thanks to the trickle-down effect in football, because of New England’s success, teams everywhere are looking for ways to better use tight ends as an effective weapon.
That’s good news for Furstenburg because he is the starting tight end for the Maryland football team. The whole New England revolution and revelation caught the senior’s attention.
“I hope I fit in that category,” Furstenburg said recently at Maryland’s annual media day. “The Patriots helped bring the attention back to tight ends in football with (Rob) Gronkowski and (Aaron) Hernandez. It was the right thing to do.”
Of course, Furstenburg is a little biased. He’d love to be the focal point in the Terrapins’ new offense this season.
There is a good chance the 6-foot-4, 245-pound target could be a major piece in Maryland’s plans. In fact, he might be one of three of them.
“The position I feel the best about is tight end,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. “We have three guys there in Mark Furstenburg, Davonte Campbell and Ryan Schlothauer who have played.”
Furstenburg will be the starter for the third straight year and is getting noticed. He was voted to the preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference team and also was placed on the Mackey Award watch list. Furstenburg is one of 33 players on the opening list for the honor, given to the top tight end in college football.
Last season, Furstenburg was a valuable weapon for the Terps. He was Maryland’s fourth leading receiver with 31 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns in his 12 starts.
Until recently, the tight end was a lost position. It went from being a big target over the middle for tough yards, to that guy at the end of the line that was almost considered like a moose head hanging in a den.
Tight ends had become a blocking decoration.
Now, athletic tight ends are the norm and the Terps seem to be in a situation to use that as a strength.
New offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has introduced a system described as “a pro-style offense which will incorporate some spread principles.”
“We’ll find the open guys and get them the ball, and they will have to make plays,” Furstenburg said. “If it’s me, I’m ready for that.”
That definition would imply the use of quick-hitting short passes to move the ball and confuse the defense. The hope is to create openings and soft spots when the defense moves to react and cover.
That’s a perfect situation for Furstenburg, just like it was for Gronkowskl and Hernandez.
“We run a lot of 5-yard routes,” Furstenburg said. “It should make sense to get it to us … we get 5 yards and we have three plays to get 10 yards to get a first down.”
No matter what the Terps do, it will be a welcomed change from last year.
Maryland was 2-10 last season in a year laced with change and turmoil.
Some players left after Edsall was hired, and the thin team was hampered even more by injuries, forcing many underclassmen and inexperienced players to take the field.
The Terps scored 23 points per game last season, but allowed 34. The math didn’t add up to many victories.
With the changes, Furstenburg said things should change.
“Anytime there is a new coach, there always seems to be transfers,” he said. “Losing left a bad taste in our mouths. We are all trying to gear up for this year. We are a much better team.”