Preseason position reviews: tight end


Welcome to the review of the weakest position in the Pac-10. And that was going to be the case even before Washington gave Kavario Middleton the boot.

Middleton, by the way, was named preseason first-team All-Pac-10 by Phil Steele, even though he only caught 26 passes last year and was being challenged for the starting job by Chris Izbicki.

Only four teams welcome back their starting tight end, and only one -- California's Anthony Miller -- even earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

Why is the position down? Attrition after an "up" season. Consider the departed: Arizona's Rob Gronkowski, Oregon's Ed Dickson, Stanford's Jim Dray, UCLA's Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya and USC's Anthony McCoy. Those guys are now stocking NFL rosters.

So where do things stand? Well, you might say we graded the position on a curve, though there is plenty of potential here.

Great shape

  • California: Miller was the Bears' third-leading receiver last year. Six-foot-7 sophomore backup Spencer Ladner saw action in seven games.

Good shape

  • UCLA: While the Bruins lost their top two TEs, they look solid here with Cory Harkey, Notre Dame transfer Joseph Fauria and hybrid TE-WR Morrell Presley.

  • Stanford: Even though the Cardinal lost Dray, Coby Fleener was their top pass-catcher at the position, and the depth is good with Konrad Reuland, Zach Ertz and 6-foot-8 Levine Toilolo.

  • Oregon State: The Beavers get credit here for H-back Joe Halahuni, who caught 35 passes for 486 yards and three TDs in 2009. Senior Brady Camp is a good blocker with 18 career starts.

  • Oregon: The Ducks lose Dickson, but David Paulson saw extensive action in 2009 and JC transfer Brandon Williams was impressive this spring.

  • Arizona: Gronkowski's back injury made A.J. Simmons the season-long starter, so the Wildcats are at least experienced. Redshirt freshman Jack Baucus is the backup.

  • Washington State: The Cougars' depth chart lists five TEs, with Skylar Stormo and Zach Tatman offering experience at the top.

We'll see

  • USC: Attrition and injuries make this a questionable position for the Trojans. If Blake Ayles and Rhett Ellison stay healthy, things should be OK. The incoming freshman class is strong, starting with Xavier Grimble, who ranked No. 1 at the position, according to ESPN Recruiting.

  • Washington: With Middleton, the Huskies would have been in great shape. Izbicki had a good spring, but he only caught three passes for 7 yards in 2009 and the depth is questionable.

  • Arizona State: Jovon Williams is gone and Dan Knapp is a tackle, but the Sun Devils could move up here just because the position figures to be more involved in the offense in 2010. Trevor Kohl and Christopher Coyle top the depth chart.