Tight ends under the microscope

Updated: September 2, 2009, 1:24 PM ET
By Todd McShay
The college scouting department here at Scouts Inc. is excited to kick off our draft blog, and we look forward to you joining us five days a week from now until the end of April as we share our thoughts on all things college football and NFL draft-related. We'll be using our film notes and college previews to provide a scout's take on NFL prospects from around the country, and we'll also take a look at news from around the nation.

A few things have jumped out in our preparation for Week 1, and none more than the dramatic change in the way tight ends are used and evaluated. There is no better example of that than BYU versus Oklahoma, a game that will showcase two of the top tight ends in the nation in OU's Jermaine Gresham and BYU's Dennis Pitta, and there are three things to watch for in that matchup.

First, does Pitta have the speed to be a factor down the middle of the field against the Sooners' speedy linebackers? He is able to exploit some slower linebackers in the Mountain West Conference, but this will be a true challenge for him, and a litmus test for NFL scouts trying to determine whether he's a legitimate vertical threat or simply a solid short-to-intermediate receiver.

Second, can Gresham consistently exploit the slower Cougars linebackers? Gresham has speed and athleticism, but we want to see more consistency and savvy from him in his fourth season. And finally, how will he perform as an inline blocker? During film study over the summer we were shocked at how soft Gresham appeared, and he not only displayed poor technique but more often than not looked disinterested in that area of the game. He must improve as a blocker if he hopes to cement his status as a true top-10 prospect.

On a side note, we are also interested in seeing Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford now that he has reportedly added 10-15 pounds of muscle. He needed to put on that weight to absorb hits and stay healthy, but it remains to be seen whether it will affect any other areas of his game.

For a deeper look at other intriguing Week 1 matchups, including more NFL prospects looking to boost their draft stock, you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider