It hasn’t taken long for rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt to turn some heads.
Pruitt, a fifth-round pick out of Div. I-AA Southern Illinois, appears to have leapt ahead of Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison on the depth chart, at least when it comes to the base offense. On Tuesday, Pruitt joined Kyle Rudolph as the second tight end in the Vikings’ two-TE personnel packages.
Pruitt is not playing tight end, though. The Vikings moved him all over the field during the first day of this week’s minicamp. One minute Pruitt was in the backfield at fullback. The next he lined up at tight end or out wide.
“MyCole has done a nice job. We’ve moved him around quite a bit,” head coach Mike Zimmer said yesterday. “He runs very, very well. He makes some really, really good catches and he’s 255 pounds. We anticipate that he will be a pretty good blocker. He’s really catching our eye.”
Pruitt grabbed the attention of offensive coordinator Norv Turner leading up to the draft. Like Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron, Pruitt is a former basketball player turned pass-catching tight end, though that’s pretty much commonplace now after all the success Gates has had in San Diego.
While Pruitt was playing a tier below the big boys in college, he led all Division I tight ends with 81 catches, 861 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. In Southern Illinois’ only game against a Div. 1-A team last season, a loss to Purdue, Pruitt caught 10 passes for 136 yards.
The Vikings were impressed enough to draft Pruitt despite having depth behind Rudolph with Ellison, Ford and former Packer Brandon Bostick.
The Vikings moved Ellison, who is a good blocker but not exactly explosive as a receiver, around last season and he was typically the other tight end in their two-TE sets. But the early indications are that Pruitt can maybe be a multi-dimensional player, giving him an edge over those other guys.
“Pruitt, he’s an athlete, I’m going to tell you that much,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “We’re glad to have him. He brings something different to the table. He can catch passes out of the backfield, catch passes from the tight end position, he can block in the run game, he can line up at wide receiver, probably can return punts and kicks, also. He’s an exciting player to have and he’s just looking forward to his opportunity.”
Bridgewater was probably exaggerating when it comes to Pruitt chipping in as a returner, too. But Pruitt did do all of that other stuff Tuesday.
And if he can block, too, he might make Ellison or Ford expendable.