Pudewell a block of granite for Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Pudewell a block of granite for Wolf Pack

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – When Anthony Pudewell arrived on the Nevada campus back in 2002, he looked more like a wide receiver than a tight end.

Four years later and 50 pounds heavier, Pudewell looks more like an offensive lineman than a tight end.

“He was going to play for us as a true freshman, but he ended up getting hurt,” said Cameron Norcross, the Pack’s tight end coach. “That ended up being the best thing. It allowed him to grow (physically and emotionally).

“So much of his work has been extra. He’s been able to grow into an all-conference player.”

And grow Pudewell did. He went from 215 to 240 his freshman season. He went up to 250 his second season and this year reported to camp at 265.

Pudewell has used that extra bulk to become one of the best blocking tight ends in the Western Athletic Conference. When all is said and done, Pudewell would rather pancake an opposing lineman or linebacker than make a circus catch like he did last year against Utah State.

And, according to Pudewell, Nevada tight ends seem more involved in blocking under Chris Ault compared to Chris Tormey.

“The position has evolved where we are more involved with the running game,” Pudewell said. “When I first came here, Erick Streelman was the tight end. He was an all right blocker, but was mostly a pass receiver. He never contributed much to the blocking.”

This group of tight ends – Pudewell, Adam Bishop and Travis Branzell – all can block, and Bishop and Pudewell are nice receivers, too. Pudewell caught 27 passes for 308 yards and two scores, and Bishop caught seven balls for 48 yards and a score.

“In our scheme, we will always have a tight end on the field,” Norcross said. “Whenever we throw to them, it will be dictated by what the defense is doing. Sometimes we’ll have a guy inside and outside on the tight end, which forces us to do other things.

“They should be a big part of our passing game this year. We should be able to get into our play-action passing because he is such a good blocker.”

Pudewell would like nothing more than to catch a few more passes. He caught 23 as a redshirt freshman, but tailed off to 13 grabs for 156 as a sophomore. No doubt he would love to hook up with quarterback Jeff Rowe more than 27 times this year. Pudewell said he is developing more chemistry each year with Rowe, and no doubt the quarterback has confidence in him.

Pudewell caught four passes for 55 yards against Idaho, and he had four catches for 36 yards, including a sensational 14-yarder for a score against Utah State.

“He lays out and looks over his shoulder to make the catch,” Norcross said. “I don’t know how many tight ends in the conference do that.”

He also caught a 10-yard TD pass against New Mexico State and had a season-long 27-yarder in the win over Hawai’i.

The 6-foot-3 Pudewell always jokes with the coaching staff about catching more balls.

“The defenses dictate and also it’s how well I can get open,” he said. “They have routes set up for me to run. I have to be able to get to the open spot and they have to be in a certain defense.”

One thing Norcross said Pudewell needs to improve on is gaining yards after he catches the ball.

“I compare him to me when I was in high school,” Norcross said. “I’d catch a ball and run over the top of people.”

No doubt Norcross would like to see Pudewell elude tacklers and pick up some extra yardage.

Pudewell is the starter, but Norcross said it’s nice to have capable back-ups like Bishop and Branzell.

“All three are going to see a lot of playing time,” Norcross said. “We play Bishop in a variety of positions. Sometimes he’ll line up as a wide receiver, sometimes he’s a wing and sometimes he’ll put his hand on the turf like a traditional tight end.”

Branzell, a senior, is used primarily in blocking situations. When it’s third or fourth-and-one, look for the play to be called to his side, and most of the time he comes through. He’ll either bloody somebody’s nose, or bloody his in the process. Branzell is your typical blue-collar player, and that’s what the coaching staff likes about him.

Notes: The football contract with Notre Dame, according to Rory Hickock, associate athletic director for external affairs, is in the office of Chancellor James Rogers. Hickock, who was at the Reno Tahoe Open on Wednesday afternoon, said the game will be played in 2009 in South Bend. It will be televised nationally… Junior nose tackle Matt Hines, who had knee surgery approximately five weeks ago, has been cleared to play in the season-opener against Fresno State next Friday night. Coach Chris Ault had said before fall camp started that the team wasn’t planning on having Hines until the Arizona State game, so his recovery time has been quicker than expected.

•Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281