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Dee Beckwith could bring unique versatility to Kentucky offense

Adam Luckett07/01/22

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Article written by:On3 imageAdam Luckett

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Dee Beckwith
(Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

As Kentucky built its 2022 roster, the coaching staff took a concerted approach to finding quality players from the transfer portal. That continued on Tuesday when the Wildcats announced a pair of surprise additions.

FCS All-American Ramon Jefferson announced that he will spend his final collegiate season in Lexington as a super senior and the roster released by the University of Kentucky confirmed that Tennessee transfer Dee Beckwith has found a new home in the SEC.

We have touched on Jefferson, but what will Beckwith be bringing to the Kentucky offense? The immediate answer is not obviously clear. The term “athlete” is being thrown around when projecting what the redshirt sophomore could do for the offense. KSR is diving in to analyze how the new transfer could fit under offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.

Athlete is not an uncommon concept in college football

As a prep star at Florence (Ala.) High, Dee Beckwith was a top-500 recruit that played quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end on offense. The class of 2020 prospect collected 27 total touchdowns but didn’t have a clear position to transition to at the collegiate level. However, at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds there was clearly size and athleticism to work with.

Jeremy Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee worked to secure a late recruiting win by landing Beckwith in the 2020 signing class. However, the true freshman saw limited action before there was a coaching change made on Rocky Top. Josh Heupel’s staff was then hired from UCF and brought a super spread tempo offense to Tennessee. The fit was awkward and Beckwith decided to enter the transfer portal.

Now the third-year player is heading to play for a pro-style attack that has been very creative at using fullbacks and tight ends to help scheme up a very effective rushing attack. Beckwith could potentially play both spots.

However, this is a clear hybrid talent and that is not rare in current college football.

Last season, Virginia classified Keytaon Thompson as a “football player” on their official roster. The former quarterback at Mississippi State finished the 2021 campaign with 973 receiving yards, 247 rushing yards, and six touchdowns as he played wideout, slot receiver, running back, and wildcat quarterback. At Northwestern, Pat Fitzgerald’s program has used a “superback” in the past which is a player that can help as a tight end, fullback, h-back, or slot receiver.

Kentucky could dip more into the hybrid game with Dee Beckwith.

H-back vs. fullback

Most everyone reading this knows what a fullback is. In the old school I-formation, the fullback served as a lead blocker for the tailback on isolation run concepts to help take a linebacker out of a gap to create a running lane. However, that position has become somewhat extinct in college football.

As spread offenses has taken over both 10 personnel (one running back, four wide receivers) and 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) have emerged as the most popular formation personnel grouping. That has taken out the role of a lead blocker. However, the game is seeing a shift back in the other direction.

Due to modern defenses putting an emphasis on speed and playing safety-sized players at the second level, some offenses have countered with bigger personnel groupings to take advantage and create value with the running game. Quite often, 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) has seen a growing usage rate and that is a look Kentucky went with often under Liam Coen in 2021.

As Kentucky’s Y tight end — Justin Rigg — was quite often aligned in-line, the offense’s H tight ends — Brenden Bates and Izayah Cummings — were both moved around to help anchor the running game playing in an off-ball alignment frequently. In both gap and zone concepts, these two served as lead blockers.

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However, things could get different in 2022. Scangarello is coming from a system with the 49ers that highly values looks with a traditional fullback. Kyle Juszczyk was used in multiple roles but his No. 1 job was to help create key blocks to free the wide zone attack used by head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Kentucky has started the transition to using a fullback by moving redshirt senior defensive end Justice Dingle to that blocking role in the spring. The Georgia Tech transfer is currently listed at 267 pounds but looked surprisingly light on his feet in live reps.

There is a role for Dee Beckwith to succeed in this offense. However, it likely falls somewhere between traditional fullback and hybrid tight end/H-back.

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Beckwith would be very tall for the fullback spot but fits in perfectly at tight end. However, there likely needs to be some more mass added to serve as a true point of attack blocker with value. Beckwith has some foot agility that could be used in unique ways, whether as a lead blocker in an outside zone concept or a route runner off of a play-action look.

The Tennessee transfer could find a home as an off-ball tight end that could be used in many ways by Scangarello.

Early expectations for Dee Beckwith

By all accounts, this will be a big transition year for the transfer. Dee Beckwith has joined the team late and will be playing in a brand new offense. The redshirt sophomore needs some adjustment time. However, there are some physical tools that could be used in a flexible scheme.

Scangarello is bringing over a creative playbook from San Francisco and the new play-caller in Lexington will have his own twists in what Kentucky will show on the field. Expect plenty of two-back packages as Kentucky could utilize both 21 personnel (two runnings back, one tight end, two wide receivers) and 22 personnel (two running backs, two tight ends, one wide receiver) to give defenses multiple different looks to defenses.

With Beckwith, Kentucky could have an athletic lead blocker that brings juice as both a surprise runner and pass catcher. That will make it difficult for defenses to align and could give the Wildcats a schematic advantage.

Versatility is a top of the line trait.

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2022-08-12