It’s a Tight Squeeze for Catches

  • August 29, 2018

BY JAY GREENBERG

Pending any Princeton application for 120-minute games or the use of three footballs on the same play, opportunities for the tight end in 2018 appear to be, at first glance, a fit inside a tight window.

It is always with the best intentions that every year at this time we approach Bob Surace about getting a 6-4, 250-pound guy who runs precise routes, catches the ball without fail and can run over linebackers, more than just a couple completions per game. And it always the coach’s response that yes, each year Graham Adomitis becomes a better weapon than ever but…

“We have terrific receivers, running backs who can catch, and quarterbacks who can catch,’ said Coach Surace. “So [the ball] does get spread out more.

“You go to the guys where and when they are going to be open. But Graham looks excellent. When called on, he will be better than he was last year.”

So will be Jordan Argue and Alex Parkinson, senior wide-outs who probably would have already emerged as chief threats if they weren’t playing on a team that didn’t have Jesper Horsted, Stephen Carlson and Tiger Bech. In 2017, Horsted caught 92 balls and 14 touchdowns, Carlson 71 and 11, Bech 40 and 2.

Good thing that Adomitis loves to block as much as he loves to catch. Even better thing that Ivy coaches who study the video voted a tight end who caught 20 passes and 2 touchdowns to honorable mention All-Ivy in 2017. Underappreciated, Adomitis has not been. Underutilized, probably he has.

“He is the most fluid and technical route runner we have had at the position,” said tight end Coach Mike Willis. “Excellent hands and very smart.”

So this has become like having an innovative piece of artillery, firing it a couple times, and sending it right to the military history museum for buffs to admire for what it could have done.

That said, the goal is to win games by the best possible means and Adomitis is all in on that. “Nowadays you see teams using the tight end only in the passing or the running game but I try to be the most balanced I can be,” he says. Still, it would seem a shame if one of the most gifted tight ends in 149 years of Princeton football history would wind up being unremembered. Feet like these should wind up more than a footnote.

And maybe they still will. Circumstances can change due to injury, a change of quarterback, or the full bloom of talent. Should Adomitis start to make like Mike Ditka–especially for a Pittsburgh guy like Graham (Central Catholic), all historic tight end references are required to be about Ditka–the senior figures to get the ball more often, and leave some bodies in his wake like ‘ol No. 89 did in those grainy films of yore. It is important to establish the threat of Adomitis on medium range routes because it will make Horsted, Carlson and even Charlie Volker coming out of the backfield that much more dangerous.

That’s a lot of poison flashing across the screens of seven Ivy defensive coordinators for them to swallow, with no good choice. The last guy you prioritize stopping can be the one who beats you.

“I always tell my guys, we have the most democratic offense in the world,” said Willis. “In 2013, when we set all-time Ivy League offense records, the best player was a quarterback (Quinn Epperly) who ran the football and a slot receiver (Roman Wilson) who caught 100 balls.

“In 2016, when we won again, our best player was John, for whom we found a million unique usages. Last year, we had an excellent drop-back quarterback (Chad Kanoff) and two outside receivers who became the focus of our offense.

“It’s been different people. So I tell guys, ‘If you demonstrate that you are the guy who is going to get himself open against man coverage and who is going to be in the right place against zone coverage, the football will naturally come your way.’

“The short answer to your question is Graham caught a lot of balls in the spring. And last year he caught more balls and touchdowns than tight ends have here in past years. I am thrilled with his progress. Obviously, those excellent wide receivers are back and we have an All-Ivy running back as well. But I would expect Graham to be very involved in the vast majority of the game, when it is appropriate.

“So yes, I would say he will get the ball more.”

Behind Adomitis is junior Sam Johnson, much more ready than he was a year ago, and behind Johnson are highly-recruited sophomores and freshmen bidding to be good enough in a couple years to make a case they, too, should get the ball more.  It will not be easy for these guys to get to that stage. The dual duties of the tight end make it arguably the toughest position on the field to learn.

With the help of big play fakes and the sell-out to the run that Lovett’s power demands of defenders, Adomitis got wide open for two touchdown passes as a sophomore. But a star hardly was born then, only been made, rep by rep, each year.

“Pass protect, run block, run routes, Graham is the model player,” said Willis.

He spent January through July getting a little stronger, quicker, bigger and was not the only talented and experienced Tiger to do so; the reason Princeton has a chance at an exceptional season. It’s the culture giving the Tigers that opportunity, not just their talents. While the team has some quick small guys, Mr. Smalls don’t fit. However many balls come his way, Adomitis will not be counting. Much more important to him is being counted upon.

“I want to consistently be a safety blanket for the quarterback,” he said. “Even if the number of times I am a target isn’t as high as the other positions. I want the highest completion percentage to be to me.”

[email protected]