When Luke Fickell hired Mike Denbrock to be his offense coordinator at Cincinnati, UC tight end Tyler Cogswell immediately went to Google to learn more about the former Notre Dame assistant coach.
“That was the first thing I did,” said Cogswell. “I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I had no idea he had been the tight ends coach. I saw that and it was an eye-popper.’
Especially after seeing that Denbrock had coached four NFL tight ends at Notre Dame including Pro Bowlers Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph.
“It’s awesome having a guy that taught and produced tight ends like that,” said Cogswell. “Knowing how much productivity they had at the college level was awesome to see.
“With his knowledge and experience with all of the tight ends that he produced at Notre Dame and with (UC tight ends coach Doug) Phillips teaching us and having them combined – it’s really been fun. I’ve already learned so much. I’ve been able to watch film of so many guys that Coach Denbrock has produced. It’s fun hearing his insight on how to get better every day.”
Denbrock had a wide variety of assignments during his two stints (2002-04 and 2010-16) at Notre Dame. In addition to coaching tight ends, he served as offensive coordinator in 2014 and also coached offensive tackles and wide receivers during his tenure with the Fighting Irish.
A constant during much of his time in South Bend was extensive use of the tight end in the passing game. Should we expect to see that at Cincinnati now that he’s calling the plays?
“We would be excited to have that be a big piece of what we do,” said Denbrock. “That’s kind of what we’re doing out here. We’re determining as we go through spring football some of the pecking order if you will of who is going to earn the chance to touch the football and how we’re going to direct our offense as we move forward.
“We can play with five wide receivers on the field and we can play with three tight ends on the field. It’s just a matter of what gives us the best opportunity to win and that’s kind of what spring ball is about. We’re trying to figure out some of those answers as we go.”
During Cincinnati’s first seven spring practices, Cogswell has been a frequent target in passing drills.
“Tyler has done a fantastic job,” said Denbrock. “I guess I’ve been a little pleasantly surprised by his ability to run and catch the ball. If you watched the last couple of years you obviously didn’t see a lot of the tight end in the passing game. As much as I like to use them, his ability to get down the field and do some things catching the football has been nice to see.”
“We’re getting more opportunities at the tight end position,” said Cogswell. “All of us have caught a lot of balls this spring and I think we’re making the most of it right now. If we can be consistent and keep showing that we can do this on a daily basis, I think it would be big for the team.”
Last year, Cogswell finished with just two catches for 42 yards but he did provide perhaps the biggest offensive highlight of the season. In the final game of the year against Tulsa, the former high school quarterback caught a backward pass from Hayden Moore and then tossed it back across the field to the UC quarterback who ran untouched 29 yards for a touchdown.
But Cogswell’s role in the trick play was overshadowed by the offensive line as all five members intentionally fell to the ground on the first pass before jumping to their feet and providing a clear path for Moore to run into the end zone.
“That was Thanksgiving week so we called the play ‘Turkey,’” said Cogswell. “We practiced it all week and I had no idea that the lineman fell down until we saw it in the game. In practice I was focusing on catching it and throwing it and I didn’t see the lineman fall. The lineman kind of took away from my touchdown a little bit. Everyone was talking about the lineman and I thought I threw a crisp, 45-yard ball across the field. That was fun.”
The senior might not get another opportunity to throw a touchdown pass, but it appears likely that he’ll play a significant role in the Bearcats offense in 2017.
“I love him as an in-line blocker and that’s going to be a great asset to what we do,” said Denbrock. “And we’ve done some things with moving him around in formations and he’s a smart guy and can pick things up very well. It’s exciting what he’s bringing to the table.”
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