Darnell Dinkins spent a decade in the NFL, nine years as a player and one as an assistant coach. During that time he not only accumulated four career touchdowns and a Super Bowl ring, but also many important details of his craft from, which he learned from some of the most-respected men in the business, including former University of Miami and Dallas Cowboy tight end Alfredo Roberts and New York Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope.
So when Dinkins lends his advice to the Scarlet Knights' relatively unproven tight end corps, he's not speaking from his playing experience, but from his listening one as well.
"[They helped me] understand that you can do a lot of things that you played and learned when you played and apply it to your coaching," Dinkins explained. "That's what Alfredo did. Mike Pope with the Giants, he's an excellent tight ends coach. Wade Harman with the Ravens--these guys instilled years of intelligence within me and I'm trying to teach these guys because ultimately a lot of young guys who come through college have dreams to make it to the next level. I've been there and I'm trying to teach them the same way I was taught."
When Dinkins was hired in February, the possibility was immediately raised that his lessons would be especially effective for D.C. Jefferson. Like Jefferson, Dinkins was a high school quarterback who converted to the position. But he insists his message to the Winter Haven, Fla. native is the same one he expresses to his position mates.
"The game is going to come to him with the more he learns," Dinkins said of Jefferson. "You could be 7-feet tall, 280 pounds, but if you don't strengthen the muscle between your ears, you make the game really hard for yourself. Right now for D.C., Paul, for all the tight ends it's about learning the game. When you become successful, you'll be a sound technician and you'll know your assignment . So technique plus assignment, it equals success. That's what I'm trying to teach them every day they come to work, is know your assignment, technique and work hard everyday."
One player in particular who could benefit from Dinkins' formula for tight ends is redshirt freshman Tyler Kroft. The Pennsylvania native is the most naturally-gifted receiver of the bunch but must prove he has the skill and bulk to handle the rigors of in-line blocking in a Pro Style scheme.
"The main thing with blocking that most people don't realize is it is about your balance and about your hand placement," Dinkins said. "That's all part of the technique I was talking about. Now you learn your assignment and know exactly where you need to go, now you won't be an issue because you're being successful in everything you do."
With Malcolm Bush electing to transfer, it will be Jefferson, Kroft and Paul Carrezola manning the position this fall. Carrezola is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but Jefferson says he plans to win the job and Kroft will push for playing time. Regardless of who is in the game, it is Dinkins' duty to make sure he is well-equipped to fill his role.
"My thing is just get everybody ready, whoever Coach Brock and Coach Flood tells me to put in there, has to be in there playing," Dinkins said, "Obviously, we've got some guys with an exceptional skill set. My job is to prepare them the way I prepared in my playing career from the coaching I received.
"It's my job to get all these guys on the same page, so that if one guy is not in there, the next guy can come in and go the same exact thing. That's what we're trying to work towards. We came in with the motto 'Work Ethic,' ETHIC being an acronym for Effort, Toughness, Heart, Intensity and Commitment. That's what all these guys have been doing."
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