Hokies Football Preview: Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck Lead a Talented Group of Tight Ends

Our position-by-position preview of the 2015 Virginia Tech Hokies continues today with a look at the tight ends. Bryan Stinespring has done a very good job of developing what might be the deepest tight end unit in all of college football.

From Bucky Hodges to Ryan Malleck to Kalvin Cline, the Hokies have three tight ends who would all start on many major FBS programs. The Hokies are set at tight end for years even with MalleckĀ graduating andĀ if Hodges had a huge year and declared for the draft.

Pre-Fall TE Depth Chart

  1. Ryan Malleck and Bucky Hodges
  2. Kalvin Cline
  3. Dakota Jackson
  4. Xavier Burke
  5. Chris Cunningham
  6. Matt Hill

Entering the 2015 season, Bucky Hodges is the Hokies’ most high-profile tight end after having an impressive debut season with 45 catches for 526 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns, and an average of 11.7 yards per reception. These impressive numbers earned him 2014 All-ACC Third Team honors, and helped him also receive 2015 Preseason All-ACC honors.

Hodges has now had over a full year at the tight end position after making the move from quarterback, and should start to become more polished in many aspects of his game, especially as a route-runner. Hodges has a special combination of speed, size, and athleticism that will earn him a lot of money in the NFL in the near future.

Hodges is a nightmare for defensive coordinators as there are very few if any linebackers that have the speed to cover Hodges while most defensive backs do not have the size to out jump him. Hodges’s speed also makes him not the easiest to cover threat when the Hokies move him outside similar to how Jimmy Graham was used when he was on the New Orleans Saints.

If Hodges has a big season and becomes a finalist for the John Mackey Award, there is a possibility that he could leave for the NFL Draft though that would depend on how high his draft stock rises. The one weakness in Hodges’s game is his blocking but that is steadily improving and as a receiver, he is a special talent that is poised for a huge season.

Ryan Malleck is your more traditional tight end that is productive as a blocker, or catching passes usually lined up in a tradition tight end spot or in the slot. Injuries affected Malleck during much of last season, but he still had 24 catches for 195 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and an average of 8.1 yards per reception.

Malleck might not be the best receiving tight end on the Hokies, but his blocking skills have helped him stay on top of the tight end depth chart with Bucky Hodges now officially co-first string. However, Hodges lines up outside more because of Malleck’s solid blocking and Hodges’s skill set as a very good receiver regardless of position.

Malleck will look to avoid injuries as he tries to finish off his collegiate in a very good way. Malleck has the potential to be a 40 to 50 reception tight end for the Hokies, which could help him build his draft stock and be selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Ryan Malleck is ready to finish off his collegiate career with another strong season as a part of the ACC’s, and possibly the nation’s, deepest group of tight ends.

Kalvin Cline would be a starter on many major FBS programs, but the member of the Corps of Cadets is the number 3 tight end for the Hokies. Injuries during the 2014 season led to Cline receiving a medical redshirt to preserve his three remaining years of eligibility.

Back in 2013, Cline impressed in his debut season for the Hokies with 26 catches for 321 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and an average of 12.3 yards per catch. Cline proved to be another high school basketball player that was able to make the transition to playing tight end in major college football.

Cline is a great athlete that is somewhat raw as a tight end, but has definitely improved as a route runner while also having a great vertical and quality ball skills to make him a big red zone target. Cline may be the number 3 tight end, but Scot Loeffler will definitely find a way to get him on the field given his talent.

Dakota Jackson doesn’t seem likely to earn much playing time other than on special teams, and potentially as a blocking tight end near the endzone, but Jackson will provide solid depth for the Hokies. Jackson will look to stay ahead of tight ends with much more upside, but you have to wonder if a move to the offensive line might be worth a shot at some point.

Xavier Burke and Chris Cunningham both seem headed for redshirts this fall with Cunningham being also certain for that with him arriving over the summer to Blacksburg. Burke was able to get some playing time this past spring, but seems like a redshirt candidate that could play in a major emergency.

Burke and Cunningham seem likely to push one another over the next few years as the long-term replacements for the Hokies’ current group of impactful tight ends. Walk-on Matt Hill is continuing his transition from quarterback to tight end but at 6’5”, he could be a guy to keep your eye and see if he can develop into a decent tight end.

Projected TE Depth Chart vs. OSU

  1. Ryan Malleck and Bucky Hodges
  2. Kalvin Cline
  3. Xavier Burke
  4. Dakota Jackson
  5. Chris Cunningham
  6. Matt Hill

The only change we see coming is Burke moving ahead of Jackson, but Burke still seems likely to be redshirted. Bucky Hodges, Ryan Malleck, and Kalvin Cline for an impressive trio of tight ends that no other program can match in college football.

Check out more of our 2015 Virginia Tech Football Preview right here.

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