Adam Whitehead so impresses coaches, they use him 'any way we can'

Portland State's coaches are so excited about freshman Adam Whitehead's potential, they are creating something of a new position to allow him to play.

Whitehead, who prepped at Grant High, is a 6-4 tight end who wasn't even listed on the two-deep depth chart when the season began. He has played in the Vikings' first two games as a tight end/fullback.

'We always thought Adam was going to be quite a player; he's just arriving where we thought he might be a little ahead of schedule,' coach Tim Walsh says. 'He's doing well with the toughness portion of the game, but he's really excelling on the mental aspects, learning all the plays.

'So we're getting him onto the field any way we can.'

Whitehead lined up for five plays against Stephen F. Austin and then for 19 plays against North Carolina A&T. He has been cast as a 250-pound blocker, which doesn't bother him at all.

'They've been close games, so they probably didn't want to take a chance on throwing to me,' he says. 'But it'll happen before long. I'm just happy to be on the field.'

Whitehead was a standout at Grant, earning a spot in the Oregon Bowl his senior year. He signed with PSU along with fellow Grant alum Seneca Sledge. They redshirted last year.

Although Whitehead has two seniors ahead of him on the depth chart Ñ Tim Hester and Zach Foster Ñ Walsh is intrigued by his versatility and knowledge of the game.

'We see him as a guy who can run the ball if we need,' Walsh says. 'He's not just a blocker and pass catcher.'

Playing Whitehead as a combination tight end/fullback gives the Vikings an edge, Walsh figures, because opponents have more to worry about. In the competitive world of college football, that's often a significant edge because defenses begin preparing for a play by recognizing personnel in the opposing huddle.

'If we have a personnel group with two tight ends and a tailback, a defense is probably going to have to defend about four formations,' Walsh says. 'But if one of those tight ends is playing somewhere else, then they've got maybe six more formations they have to consider.

'When something like that happens, it forces a defense to simplify, and that's what we want on offense. That's an edge we're looking for.'

Whitehead, a health major who plans on being a health teacher, says the challenge of learning two positions has given him a new respect for college ball.

'Everyone says college play is faster, but I think it's slower,' he says. 'In high school, you just went out and muscled guys, and that wasn't too hard. Here, everything is slowed down because you have so much technique to worry about and other things. You have to know all those pass routes and where you're supposed to be blocking-wise. That's a lot to learn.'

NOTES: Walsh admitted his team seemed to fall in love with hitting the big play in the first half of Saturday's 23-20 overtime win against North Carolina A&T, but the second half was more to his liking, especially the 17-play drive that tied the game in the fourth quarter. PSU also gained 286 yards in the second half, something it can build off heading into Saturday's Oregon game.

Walsh is looking for more impact from his receivers. Jay Williams and Antonio Jackson had just four receptions Saturday for 15 yards. É Sledge, a lineman on special teams, says the Vikings have no special goals for the Oregon game. 'We're there to compete and see what happens,' he says. É PSU's only other trip to Autzen was a 58-16 loss in 1994 before 30,505 fans.

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