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Sunday, September 25, 2011
Bye week grades: tight ends

By Kevin Gemmell

Part six of the ongoing report card for the Stanford Cardinal during the bye week.

TIGHT ENDS

Grade: A+

Summary: No other position group has been as reliable or as dominant for the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal (fourth in the latest coaches' poll) than the tight ends.

Trees. Towers. Whatever you want to call them, they are big, fast and arguably the best group of tight ends in the nation.

Zach Ertz (6-foot-6, 252), Coby Fleener (6-6, 254) and Levine Toilolo (6-8, 262) are a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. And when all three are on the field at the same time, oh boy, look out.

Coby Fleener's 60-yard touchdown against Duke is a textbook example of how scary this trio can be in a three-tight end formation. Ertz and Toilolo run up-and-outs and Fleener goes straight up the middle. Someone (who is not 6-6 or taller) is going to get stuck with a one-on-one matchup, and the odds are they are going to lose. Quarterback Andrew Luck throws a bullet, Fleener outmuscles the smaller safety and the end result is a big play/touchdown.

They have the speed to stretch the field like wide receivers and the hands to match.

All three are also good run-blockers -- which is a major asset to an offensive line that continues to find continuity with three new starters. As we saw against Arizona, a good run game opens up all sorts of possibilities in the play-action passing game and the tight ends enjoyed some major gains.

There is no backups segment with these guys, because all three play so much -- and last week against the Arizona Wildcats, the Cardinal offense started the game in a three-tight end formation.

Each one has the potential to blow up in a game. As a unit, they have combined for 22 catches, 365 yards and seven touchdowns.

Combine all of that with one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Luck and you have an A-plus rating.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive Line

Offensive Line

Linebackers

Running backs/Fullbacks