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Vols tight end is a threat to Hokies

ATLANTA – In Virginia Tech’s season-opening loss to Alabama, the Crimson Tide used its tight end to get a few big gains. As the Hokies return to the Georgia Dome for Thursday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, they are preparing for a team that also uses its tight end effectively.

Tight end Luke Stocker is a potent weapon for Tennessee. Stocker is one of the Volunteers’ leading receivers, catching five touchdowns and picking up 13.7 yards per reception this season.

“I think him and all their tight ends really help their offense a lot, running that pro-style offense,” Hokies defensive end Nekos Brown said as Virginia Tech (9-3) readies to play the Volunteers (7-5). “They really make their offense go really. Sometimes you forget about the tight end. I think they have a real good scheme and he’s a big part of it.”

That is not unlike how Alabama used its tight end, Colin Peek, against the Hokies. In the Crimson Tide’s 34-24 win on Sept. 5, Peek hauled in three receptions for 37 yards. He caught a pass in a 2-point conversion by Alabama to put it up, 24-17, in the fourth quarter.

In Knoxville, Stocker, a junior, has blossomed into one of the best tight ends in the country. At 6 feet 6 and 240 pounds, Stocker has a big body, but can get open and is athletic once he gets the ball in his hands.

Stocker has been a key compliment to an offense that is driven by its rushing attack with running back Montario Hardesty. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton has looked to Stocker almost as frequently as Volunteers’ wide receivers; Stocker has caught 27 passes for 370 yards.

Bud Foster, the Hokies’ defensive coordinator, credited Tennessee’s play calling for setting up Stocker to make plays.

“He can create some match up problems,” Foster said. “They’re going to find him. A lot of their offense is based off of their ability to run the football, and hope they slip him through in the cracks in a play-action to get a play down field. But he’s really one of the better tight ends, if not the best tight end, in college football today, in my opinion.”

By Mark Viera  |  December 30, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
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