The Longhorns have a new tight end. A big one.
Luke Poehlmann, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound junior, moved from the offensive line to tight end prior to last week’s win over Kansas. With Texas desperately searching for an answer to its blocking woes at that position, Poehlmann proved to be the answer.
“That’s what we’re looking for, more push and power off the edge,” said senior left guard David Snow. “He did a great job for us. He pushed off the line and that whole right side got a great push. We’re really excited about it.”
Poehlmann sealed the edge, allowing the Longhorns tailbacks to gain a season-high 441 yards rushing against the Jayhawks. Bryan Harsin, the Texas play-caller, decided to move the junior to tight end during the bye week to jump-start the outside running game.
“He dominated the 27 plays he was in there,” said head coach Mack Brown. “We’ve got to continue to grow with him.”
The decision worked so well that Harsin anticipates Poehlmann seeing more action in his new role over the final five weeks, beginning Saturday against Texas Tech.
“That helped us, just having a bigger body out there on the edge in some of those one-on-one blocks,” Harsin said. “I don’t see a reason why we’re not going to use him there again.”
But Poehlmann wasn’t a complete stranger to tight end before the move. As a redshirt freshman in 2009, he spent some time at the position in practice — albeit a brief stint.
“That didn’t last too long after he was running a couple routes,” said senior tight end Blaine Irby, smiling. “I haven’t seen him catch the ball in a while. Hopefully we’ll get him on a corner route or something.”
That could come as soon as this week against the Red Raiders, but don’t expect Poehlmann to become too involved in the passing game. His value is still as a blocker.
“He was asking if he could go out the back side (for a pass against KU),” Harsin said. “I don’t think he was quite ready for that yet. But maybe this week.”
While Poehlmann’s brief experience at tight end helped ease the transition, his background as an offensive lineman certainly came into play.
“He’s a guy that’s been in the trenches, he know exactly what it takes,” said senior running back Fozzy Whittaker, who rushed for 68 yards against KU. “He’s blocked defensive ends all the time. Having him on the edge was a big help for us.”
Poehlmann switched his uniform from No. 77 to No. 82 to become an eligible receiver. And though he played a critical role in beating Kansas, he wasn’t immune from a little good-natured ribbing from some of his former lineman this week.
“No. 82 is not supposed to be on a guy that big,” said sophomore right guard Mason Walters, half-joking. “But at the same time he fought hard.
“He learned the technique early in the week, it’s not something we really knew we were going to do. Luke worked on it all week; keeping his hands inside, running his feet the whole time. He did a great job.”
Poehlmann missed the final 10 games of the 2010 season after tearing his ACL against Wyoming, the second game of the year. He saw limited action through the first six games of this season, and jumped at the chance to get more playing time at tight end.
“He was really excited about that opportunity and you could tell in the game,” Harsin said. “That vibe just helped across the board, just having him in there.”
Texas’ newest tight end just might be the most important one yet. He’s certainly the biggest.