Thursday, July 18, 2013
Preseason position reviews: tight end
By Ted Miller
It's not unusual that tight end is a strong position in the conference. What's unusual is that Stanford doesn't lead the way in 2013.
At least, not from a preseason perspective.
So how do things stack up?
Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the first tight end taken in the NFL draft next year.
Washington: Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a consensus preseason All-American and the junior is likely to be the first tight end selected in this spring's NFL draft. He ranked eighth in the Pac-12 last year with 77 receptions for 878 yards and six touchdowns. Backup Michael Hartvigson is solid.
Oregon: Colt Lyerla is a versatile weapon for the Ducks' offense, one we expect to get more use this fall. His backup, Pharaoh Brown, was one of the stars of spring practices.
USC: Xavier Grimble caught 29 passes for 316 yards with five touchdowns, and Randall Telfer caught 12 passes for 100 yards and four scores. Both are NFL prospects. It would be wise to get them the ball more this season.
Arizona State: Chris Coyle, officially an H-back, led the Sun Devils with 57 receptions for 696 yards and five touchdowns last season. The depth behind him is questionable. Darwin Rogers, who plays tight end, is almost exclusively a blocker.
Oregon State: 6-foot-7 Connor Hamlett, an H-back, caught 32 passes last season for 403 yards. Tyler Perry is competing with Caleb Smith for the starting spot at tight end. The promising Kellen Clute is Hamlett's backup. Lots of big bodies that can catch here.
Utah: Jake Murphy caught 33 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns, and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors. Westlee Tonga will also see plenty of action. Coach Kyle Whittingham has said he wants his tight ends to play a bigger role this fall.
California: Sonny Dykes offense uses a "Y" receiver, which can be a tight end or another receiver. Richard Rodgers is an impressive athlete who looks like a prototypical tight end. He caught 20 passes for 288 yards and a score last season. It will be interesting to see how he is used this fall.
Stanford: 6-foot-7 Luke Kaumatule and Davis Dudchock might become the next great Cardinal tight end combination, but neither caught a pass last season. It's tempting to throw fullback and former tight end Ryan Hewitt in here and boost Stanford up to good shape.
UCLA: The Bruins are another team that use a "Y" receiver instead of a tight end, and the departure of Joseph Fauria probably means that position will be more like a receiver than a tight end this fall -- see 5-foot-11 Darius Bell being a first option here after spring practices. That said, Ian Taubler and touted freshman Thomas Duarte have traditional tight end builds and could be in the offensive mix.
Colorado: Nick Kasa was one of Colorado's best players last year but he's gone and anyway he caught just 25 passes. Kyle Slavin, who topped the spring depth chart, caught 14 balls last season. It will be interesting to see how Mike MacIntyre's "pistol" offense incorporates some of the young tight ends -- redshirt freshmen Sean Irwin and Austin Ray -- into its offense going forward.
Arizona: Drew Robinson was listed as the Wildcats starting tight end last season, and he didn't catch a pass. The 2013 roster only lists two tight ends, though big receiver Terrence Miller, at 6-foot-4, 234 pounds, looks like a tight end. It's not a priority position in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.
Washington State: Mike Leach is not a tight end guy.