Pac-12: Austin Gunder

It's Haves and Who Knows? at tight end this spring

March, 3, 2009
3/03/09
10:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It's not completely accurate to call it feast or famine at the tight end this spring in the Pac-10.

Washington, California, Stanford, etc. will insist they've got a wealth of talent at the position, despite the lack of returning production.

But in trying to evaluate a position, it seems best to stick with what is proved over what is potential. So there doesn't seem to be much middle ground here.

Great shape

     
      AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
      Rob Gronkowski hauled in 47 receptions for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008.
  • Arizona: It's always nice to have back a certain preseason All-American, which is what the Wildcats have in future first-round draft pick Rob Gronkowski. It's also nice to have all four names on last season's depth chart at tight end and H-back coming back in 2009.
  • UCLA: Ryan Moya earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2008, but he wasn't even the No. 1 tight end entering the season. That would be Logan Paulsen, who returns this spring after missing last year with a broken foot. And there's talented sophomore Cory Harkey. And touted true freshman Morrell Presley, who's enrolled and will participate in spring practices.
  • Oregon: Ed Dickson was second-team All-Pac-10 -- yes, tied with Moya -- in 2008, and his athleticism makes him an NFL prospect. And this depth chart lists eight guys at the position heading into spring.
  • USC: Is it possible for a USC player to be underrated? Yes. Let me introduce you to Anthony McCoy, who caught 22 passes for 256 yards last year. Toss in talented sophomore Blake Ayles -- nagging injuries limited him in 2008 -- and you've got two big targets for whoever wins the quarterback job.

Good shape

  • Oregon State: The good news is all five names on the 2008 depth chart at tight end and H-back are back. The less excited news is those guys combined for 29 receptions. Can the combination of Howard Croom and Brady Camp become more than just solid?

We'll see

  • Stanford: Starter Austin Gunder, the Cardinal's third-leading receiver in 2008, is gone, but his 17 receptions were just four more than backup Coby Fleener. Notre Dame transfer Konrad Reuland also figures to be firmly in the mix this spring. And, curiously, Stanford signed four tight ends during the recruiting season, though they won't be around until the fall.
  • California: Cameron Morrah, the Bears second-leading receiver, surprised many when he opted to enter the NFL draft a year early. That was a hit. But backup Tad Smith is a good blocker -- just three receptions in 2008 -- and many are high on sophomore Anthony Miller, who caught the winning touchdowns pass in the Emerald Bowl victory over Miami (though that was his only reception of the season).
  • Arizona State: There are a lot of names here but little certainty -- see just seven combined receptions among returning players. Sophomore Dan Knapp looked good before getting hurt. Redshirt freshman Steven Figueroa could be a factor. Senior Jovon Williams saw a lot of action last year. Touted freshman Christopher Coyle arrives in the fall.
  • Washington: If sophomore Kavario Middleton, a touted but physically undeveloped 2008 recruit, has been working hard in the weight room, he could become one of the conference's breakout players. Behind him are sophomore Chris Izbicki and JC transfer Dorson Boyce.
  • Washington State: The top two names from the 2008 depth chart -- Devin Frischknecht and Ben Woodard -- are gone. Senior Tony Thompson had four catches last year. Touted JC transfer Peter Tuitupou, tabbed as the starter when he signed, shocked the staff by opting to go on a two-year church mission. There's hope that Zach Tatman, a former walk-on offensive lineman, might be able to step in. Perhaps some young guys will step up.

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