We caught up with former Ole Miss tight end Doug Zeigler on the RebelSportsRadio show THE SEASON TICKET and discussed a couple of his big games and how the tight end position is evolving in the era of spread/read-option offenses.
Doug, you were a Rebel back in 1998 to 2002 during the Eli Manning era which must have been some heady days in Oxford. Talk about being one of Eli Manning’s favorite targets at tight end and also being his roommate.
Yea we had a good time together. Being Eli’s roommate was a lot of fun and it might have helped me out on the field as well to be more of a target of his. My biggest issue during my junior/senior years was when I had to deal with some injuries that sort of shortened my career a little bit. But being Eli’s roommate was beneficial to me both on the field and off.
In 2001, you guys went to Baton Rouge and beat an LSU team that won the SEC that year, even though at the time they didn’t have much momentum.
This is one of the games I will always remember. I always enjoyed playing down in death valley. The SEC schedule changed during that time and we had to play them in Baton Rouge back to back. I will always remember my two touchdowns in the 4th quarter. That last one, Eli was scrambling around and he says he saw me, but I think he was just throwing away and it just happened to fall in my grasp.
Hey you can tell us the truth, now. Did you really catch that ball?
Absolutely! I caught that ball. I held it all the way through. No doubt. No juggling at all.
Hey if you caught it, you caught it!
The biggest thing was after the touchdown, Ben Claxton came up and hit me probably harder than I had been hit all year. He tackled me in the endzone, that was quite a shock. I think on ESPN, it was Sean Salsibury that said I didn’t catch it, but I know I caught it.
Hey, even if you didn’t, I would look at it as stealing one back from the times LSU has stolen games from us. In 1999, Ole Miss had one of the best collection of talents in the state of Mississippi on the same team, lot of people talk about the 2008-2009 group but you guys lost 4 games by a total of 15 points, almost every single one of those starters were NFL players. Talk about practicing and playing on that team.
That was a heck of a team. Everyone was able to get a little NFL experience, that started on that team. It was very competitive. I remember I came in as a quarterback my redshirt year and after being put down at tight end, I was down in a three point stance going up against guys like Kendrick Clancy and Derrick Burgess. Trying to block those guys, I thought, “What in the world am I doing?” going against these guys as a freshman.
It was a tough season because we were in every game. We would have a 1 point loss or a 3 points loss. Every game we were in and we could have easily run the table. I think we had an early loss like that to Vandy that really hurt us but it was a remarkable team.
The tight end position has changed so much now with the advent of the spread offenses. From your unique position let’s talk about how the SEC is changing offensively.
It is changing, in college and the NFL. Guys are all flexed out, they are in the backfield now being used like a full back postion. The speed of the game is the biggest change i’ve seen. Like in Freeze’s offense , the speed of the game and the tempo is so quick. If you are on the couch watching a game now, you don’t even get to see replays. They are almost taking replays out of the game. They don’t even have time to review a lot of plays now, they are getting back on the line of scrimmage and running plays.
I do have a connection to current tight end Evan Engram at Ole Miss. His family lived a couple streets down from me in Wilmington Ohio, when he was like 2 or 3 years old before they moved to Atlanta. So it’s neat to see him growing and having a heck of a career. He is a much different player than I was. He is always flexed out and using his speed and those good hands he’s got.
Well, they like to throw the ball a lot. Even though we had Eli Manning, it was still an “old school” pro-style offense. We had our two tight end sets and two back sets. Now they are flexing Evan out almost every play, he will be in a traditional tight end set maybe 2 or 3 times a game. They are throwing it 40 or 50 times a game so you would have a lot more catches and a little more time in the spotlight. I think every tight end loves to catch the ball and would love to play in an offense like that. Offenses are changing non-stop. It’s amazing what they are doing now. Coaches must put in a lot of time developing these new plays and schemes.
In 2012, Hugh Freeze came in as head coach at Ole Miss and was able to successfully adapt his offense to players that didn’t really fit that type of spread/pro-style offense, which is a credit to the type of coach he is. How would you assess Coach Freeze so far?
When Hugh Freeze was hired, I just asked, “What in the world is going on?” I mean, I didn’t know who he was, I wasn’t there when he was an assistant coach under Coach Orgeron. I just never had a chance to meet him. But from what I’ve seen and heard, he’s just so positive all the time. Not only during the practices and games but he carries that over during the spring time. It really keeps the kids fired up and recruiting has been phenomenal. I’ve never gotten excited about recruiting before, but with last year’s class, even I got into it. They have me excited about the team and their future and everyone is moving in the right direction. I would love to get inside his head one day and talk some football.
Great talking to you Doug. So tell us what are you up to these days.
After Ole Miss, I bounced around the NFL, playing on some practice teams and re-habbing after my broken leg. After that, I moved back to Mason Ohio, close to cincinnatti and opened up an insurance office. I got married in 2008 and we have a three year old daughter, so outside of work and family, just enjoying life.