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Miami Hurricanes still searching for tight end solution

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wants his Miami tight ends to combine for 50 catches in 2012.

Coach Al Golden, a former Penn State tight end, wholeheartedly approves.

If only at least one would emerge.

With the Boston College opener quickly approaching, Golden said he’s still waiting.

“If we have to play by committee, that’s OK, too,’’ Golden said late last week. “It’s not that we don’t have confidence in them, I just haven’t seen one emerge.

“It’s wide open still. If you ask the offensive coordinator and tight end coach, [the starter] probably won’t be determined until next week.”

Another season, same question: When will the Miami Hurricanes have a dominant tight end?

Bubba Franks. Jeremy Shockey. Kellen Winslow. Greg Olsen. Those days are long gone.

The year 2010 — 22 combined catches for 236 yards and a touchdown — marked the first time in 16 years that a UM tight end failed to make double-digit receptions (Syii Tucker and Gerard Daphnis each had nine catches in 1994).

The year 2011 — 28 combined catches for 266 yards and two touchdowns — wasn’t much better.

Tight ends coach Brennan Carroll, Fisch and Golden just hope that 6-5, 263-pound junior Asante Cleveland, now ahead of Clive Walford, Dyron Dye and David Perry on the depth chart, continues to improve after shoulder surgery to repair a torn right labrum in February 2011.

“Last year during camp I didn’t really perform as well as I thought I could,” said Cleveland, who played mostly on special teams in 2011, and had one catch for six yards in the season opener. “I was coming off the shoulder injury so I was still a little hesitant when it came to blocking, and still cautious about protecting my shoulder. But I put in so much work during the offseason with the strength and conditioning program, I shouldn’t even need to think about that anymore.

“We’re long overdue. The past couple years, tight ends haven’t really been that great in production for our offense.’’

Walford, 6-4 and 248 pounds out of Belle Glade Glades Central, played in all 12 games last season, earning eight starts as the team’s primary target at tight end. He had at least one catch in 10 games, and finished fourth on the team with 18 catches and 172 yards. His first career touchdown came against Florida State.

He also had his share of drops, none as damaging as the one at the goal line that would have given the Hurricanes a victory against Kansas State in late September.

“If I would have caught that ball we would have won,” Walford lamented. “You’ve just got to tuck the ball, and when two defenders come and try to strip it out, you’ve got to protect it with two hands. I probably was thinking too much.

“This season we should be a lot better. I’m trying to live up to the legacy. All of us tight ends will be used. Everybody has talent, and everybody is trying to showcase it.”

Early in camp, Golden described Walford as inconsistent.

“He’s a guy that has to be the same guy every day — just run his routes at top speed,” the coach said. “We need Clive to be a big part of this offense.”

If this season turns out to be like the last several, the “committee” concept might have to suffice.

Dye, a 6-5, 258-pound redshirt junior from Sanford, switched from the defensive line to tight end last season and played in six games. He had no catches.

When asked what in particular concerned him about UM’s tight ends — the blocking or pass-catching — Golden indicated neither.

“I didn’t say I was concerned,” Golden said. “I just said no one has distinguished themselves as a starter. I’d be happy with any of the three in the game.”

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