Birthday: May 6, 1982
Strengths: Jason Witten did not intend on playing tight end when he chose to go to Tennessee, but he may now be the best all-around player at the position in college football. One of the elite prospects in the country as a linebacker/tight end in high school, Witten had set his sights on becoming a defensive end for the Vols until he arrived on campus and was moved to offense to alleviate a shortage of tight ends. Witten played as a reserve and on special teams as a freshman, but impressed the Tennessee coaches enough that in the offseason they made the trip from Knoxville to Nashville to discuss with the Titans’ staff how to get a tight end more involved in the offense. While Witten only started two games as a sophomore, he ended the season as the team’s third-leading receiver behind only star wideouts Kelley Washington and Donte’ Stallworth.
Witten is the prototype for an NFL tight end. At 6’5" and over 260 lbs., he dominates as a blocker, both at the line and downfield. Witten is a huge target as a receiver and possesses big, soft hands. A gifted athlete, he has the concentration and coordination to drag his feet in-bounds while falling out of the endzone and the speed to stretch a defense like few big men can. In the Citrus Bowl, he pulled in a short pass and literally ran away from the entire Michigan defense to score on a 64-yard play. Wolverine coach Lloyd Carr said after the game that the touchdown "changed the entire complexion of the game" and crushed Michigan’s hopes of mounting a comeback.
Areas for Concern: Having only recently turned 20 years old, Witten is prone to occasional youthful, and sometimes costly, mistakes. Last December, Tennessee had a 14-7 second quarter lead on Florida in The Swamp with a berth in the SEC Championship Game on the line when Witten fumbled at the Volunteer 24-yard line. The Gators recovered and kicked a field goal, cutting the lead to 14-10. On the next series, a pass bounced off Witten’s usually reliable hands and into the arms of a Florida defender in Tennessee territory. One play later, the Gators moved ahead 17-14 on a Jabar Gaffney touchdown. Much to Witten’s relief, however, the Volunteers managed to pull out a 34-32 victory.
How Would He Look in Steel Blue? Witten is a rare athlete who is just beginning to realize his enormous potential and could become a star in the NFL. A blocker like Witten could provide a big boost to the Texans’ running game; he could combine with Ryan Young on one side, or Tony Boselli on the other, to open some huge holes.
As a receiver, he could develop into a player in the Tony Gonzalez class – a tight end who is a true offensive weapon and a downfield threat. Witten would have to forgo his final year of college eligibility in order to be eligible for the 2003 draft, but if he continues to improve, he could soon be a man among boys at that level.
(profile written by Warren DeLuca)
Jason Witten’s 2001 Stats G CTH YDS AVG TD 12 28 293 10.5 2 Jason Witten Return to The War Room
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