, Port Arthur, Texas

October 8, 2012

CHALK TALK: PN-G's Clopton an end of a different sort

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — It’s hard to be ground-breaking on offense or defense anymore in football. There aren’t many new positions to come up with and most of the plays have been done before in some form or fashion.

The trick is to be innovative. Like a good jazz musician, creative football minds can take something standard and make it special with variations on a theme. Take Port Neches-Groves tight end position, last year held by Alan Hanks and this year manned by Tim Clopton.

Both have been integral parts of the offense, getting more work and looks each week. They’re good pass catchers, able blockers and are athletic enough to move around a formation to pose matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Yet, neither would have much success as a traditional tight end. They both lack the pure size of Vidor’s John Boy Smith or Nederland’s part-time tight end De Shawn Washington. They were also better receivers than most tight ends, making them more useful if they were make a bigger part of the offense.

So, are they really tight ends?

Let’s back up a bit to the beginning of this thing. Back when Joe Gibbs was coaching the Washington Redskins in the ‘80s, he had a problem. His name was Lawrence Taylor and he played a mean outside linebacker for the New York Giants. Gibbs knew he had to stop Taylor from getting to his quarterback, but there are only so many players on the field at one time. Luckily, he didn’t need one of his running backs as much as the other (fullback John Riggins), so he took one back off the field and put in another, similar to a tight end, but more athletic and able to catch a pass out of the backfield.

This guy needed a designation on the field. See, in quite a few playbooks, receivers and backs have specific letter designations. Split ends, tight ends and flankers are designated as X, Y and Z, respectively while the backs are F, H and Q. This helps in playcalling, since you can say things like “X slant, Y fade” instead of calling out “Right receiver fly” or something similarly bulky.

Well, since Riggins played fullback, or the F-Back, and Joe Theismann was the quarterback, or Q-Back, that left the halfback spot as the place to see a sub. Thus, that extra tight end who could line up in the backfield sometimes became known as an H-Back.

That’s what the PN-G coaching staff callS Clopton, because he’s used in so many different ways. He’ll line up at the end of the line sometimes, but more often he’s lining up beside the quarterback before motioning out into the flats.

It also helps Clopton when he’s being asked to move around the past two weeks. By getting him used to getting into a three-point stance in the backfield, running motions and the like, it made an easy transition to make him the featured back on certain plays.

Against Lumberton, Clopton carried the ball seven times for 48 yards. Against LC-M, he had 14 carries for 49 yards. For some players, that might be a big switch, but for Clopton, it probably felt more normal, since there were already times he lined up in the backfield behind the quarterback.

My favorite bit of misdirection with the H-Back position is one PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth has used in each of the past two seasons. He’ll line up that position just behind the offensive line, usually between the guard and tackle and have them get down in almost a three-point stance.

With a smaller player like the H-Back or tailback Chase Bertrand, this is a sort of camoflauge from defenders. That’s not a typical position for a player to line up, and with smaller guys, they don’t stand out as much behind a big offensive line. Thus, the defense can easily forget about the player.

Clopton is in this position a lot. Bertrand almost scored a touchdown from that spot last year against Crosby, lining up there and then running a seam route straight up the field. Since he was essentially hidden at first, no linebacker jumped up to cover him and he was wide open 20 yards down the field before being overthrown on the pass.

All three of the local coaching staffs seem to share a philosophy of fitting their schemes to fit the players. PN-G may not have a tight end, but they’ve had two really good H-Backs the past few years, so they get worked into the mix. It’s not ground-breaking, but it is an innovative use for players who may not have been as effective as straight tight ends or running backs.

If you have questions on something your local team has been doing on the field, email us at