Behold the tight end! The great Swiss Army knife of football. Part offensive lineman, part fullback, part receiver and like the California Condor, facing extinction. Fewer teams use tight ends, fewer still use them effectively. The Roundup's position preview looks at the tight end, a position where we rank the group but, like quarterbacks, one where one player can make a huge difference.
We're looking for guys that can both block and be effective in the pass game. The former is harder to find. We like bigger targets that can use the entire field, especially underneath. Good hands are optimal and flexibility is a huge asset.
1. Texas State
Texas State went to Florida to find Gabe Schrade. The senior from Deland was elected captain last season and caught 25 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Among tight ends last season he ranked in the 83rd percentile in receptions and yards.
Film Study: Gabe Schrade
Sure handed, uses body well to shield defenders. Smart route runner. Needs to work on hand placement and bringing his feet in blocking. At times tentative and too upright.
His 25 catches were easily best among Texas FBS tight ends.
Behind Schrade is sophomore Brendon Rushing from Desoto. He's the best athlete of the bunch and caught four passes last season. Rushing average 23 yards a catch. Chris French transferred in prior to 2015 from Saddleback College. He caught three passes last season.
Baylor has not one, but two plus sized tight ends. Jordan Feuerbacher and Sam Tecklenburg. Each weigh in at north of 260. Baylor will use more of a classic tight end look this year in Matt Rhule's offense. Feuerbacher and Tacklenburg were used as hybrid H-backs and fullbacks in 2016.
Best of the Power 5: Andrew Beck
Best of the G5: Gabe Schrade
Top Newcomer: Robert Ursua
Feuerbacher caught seven passes in 2016 and two touchdowns. Tecklenburg, a sophomore from Plano, is one of the best blockers at the position, but he's not the greatest pass catching target. He's dropped some weight this offseason to try and become more mobile. Feuerbacher is also down in weight to 265.
New position coach Joey McGuire is trying to change the look and feel of Baylor's tight ends. "We're looking for a guy that can really stretch the field and get vertical, but they've also got to be able to block" McGuire said in spring ball.
True freshman Tyler Henderson comes in at 6-4 240 pounds and is more the look and skill set that Baylor wants to evolve the position into. One of the more intriguing prospects is Ishmael Wainwright, fresh off the Baylor basketball team and at 6-5 235, he could prove useful in the passing game.
Frank Scelfo wants a tight end for his offense. He might've even put it on his Christmas list. He may have one, one that was there all along. Shaq Williams has always lived in that no-man's land as a tweener. Too big to be a receiver, but too finesse to be a tight end. This offseason he made concerted effort to add weight and it paid off in 20 pounds bringing him up to 255 pounds.
Williams caught 13 passes last season and two touchdowns. With his weight gain he should be more of an asset in the running game. UTSA signed Robert Ursua out of Palomar Junior College. He's a very good blocker and should help immensely on the line of scrimmage.
UTSA signed two tight ends along with Ursua in their 2017 recruiting class, Chance McCleod from Victoria East and Michael Goff from San Antonio Johnson. At least one of those two should see some action this season.
For several years now the Texas tight end position has been comparable to Spinal Tap's drummer, lots of different guys, some of which spontaneously combust. Andrew Beck has been the best of the bunch, even if he is a converted linebacker.
Last season Beck caught four passes, two of which went for touchdowns. Beck should see his production go up in Texas' new offense. Last season at Houston Tom Herman used Tyler McCloskey to the tune of 21 catches. Beck has a similar skill set.
Film Study: Andrew Beck
Much better blocker than pass catcher, underutilized in the passing game. Excellent lead blocker. Brings contact, good hand placement, drives through with legs. Plus athlete.
Beck broke his foot during spring drills but his recovery is encouraging.
Behind Beck are a number of unknowns. If something happens to Beck, chances are Texas does without. The Longhorns have converted Garrett Gray from receiver, but he will need time to make the adjustment. True freshman Cade Brewer may not be physically ready to play in 2017.
Rice transfer Cole Hunt might be the prototypical tight end. He's 6-7, 250 pounds, he can block and get off the line of scrimmage. He looks like Gronk, if only he played in an offense that appreciated him. Hunt caught five passes with one going for a score last season.
Another transfer, Cole Novak from Texas State, is another big, physical blocking specialist. TCU tends to forget that Hunt and Novak are on the roster until there's a short yardage situation or in the shadow of either goal line.
Redshirt freshman Artayvious Lynn chose the Frogs over Florida during the 2016 recruiting cycle. He comes in at 6-6 248 pounds. This offseason the Frogs signed Christian Williams, the 5th ranked JUCO tight end in the country.
If only TCU found a way to use these magical giants.
6. North Texas
North Texas really made a find in Kelvin Smith out of Spring Dekaney. Smith was a blocking tight end in high school, but he's shown the athleticism to be a nice target in the pass game. Last season Smith caught seven passes for 79 yards. In his debut against SMU he had a highlight reel touchdown catch.
Like most Air Raid systems, the tight end will play more H-back, off the line behind the tackle.
Behind Smith, Jamie King a signee out the College of the Desert and Caleb Chumley from Longview Pine Tree will fill out the depth chart. Neither has taken a snap in Denton. Chumley is a big target at 6-5, 250 pounds.
Mitchell Kaufman has played linebacker, fullback, and tight end at SMU. The Highland Park product has settled in at the latter, catching seven passes last season. Chad Morris' offense uses the tight end as an H-back, to cross block/lead on zone reads and run underneath routes. Kaufman has the talent to do all these things, maybe a little more. He's developing as a blocker, not an easy skill to master with SMU's offense which requires a lot of blocking in space.
Ryan Becker started one game as true freshman. The 6-5 230 pounder from Marble Falls should continue to fill into a very nice tight end. The Mustangs picked up a grad transfer in the form of Raymond Epps out of Arizona State.
Redshirt freshman Corey Rau, from Katy Cinco Ranch, was a highly recruited prospect. He had a very good spring and was singled out by Morris for his production. Even if Rau or one of the other prospects develops, SMU may never actually use them.
Houston loses Tyler McCloskey and his 21 catches, but return a few interesting prospects at the position.
Romello Brooker saw a fair amount of playing time behind McCloskey. Brooker had two catches and a touchdown in 2016. He came to Houston as a 175 pound receiver, but has bulked up to 240. He's still a plus athlete and can stretch the defense.
Iowa State transfer Alex Leslie played sparingly for Houston in 2016. He's 6-6 and 250 pounds and better run blocker. Redshirt freshman Mason Tobola out of West and true freshman Parker Eichenberger could factor in as well for the Cougars. Eichenberger out of Katy was the 8th tight end prospect in the state last season and chose the Cougars over Illinois and Tulsa.
Rice is the rare spread team that uses a tight end quite a bit. Connor Cella graduated leaving the job to 6-6 Robby Wells. Wells caught three passes last season in spelling Cella. Wells had a good spring and looks ready to take the job full time. While he's not a downfield threat, his size makes him a matchup problem underneath.
Behind Wells things get thin fast. Junior squadman Austin Williams could factor in as could sophomore Chris Barnes. Neither has played a snap to date. The Owls signed Bull Jaeger from Corpus Christi Flour Bluff. Jaeger played tight end at Flour Bluff as a junior but was moved to quarterback as a senior. The Owls will want to put weight on Jaeger before throwing him into action.
UTEP has to replace not only Hayden Plinke but Kent Taylor as well. Plinke was the best tight end in the state last season and parlayed that into an NFL contract. Taylor was a former five star recruit who went to Florida and Kansas before coming to UTEP.
To replace their depth chart, UTEP is looking to two transfers: David Lucero from Boise State by way of Arizona Western and Josh Weeks from BYU. Lucero looks to be the most polished pass catcher of the two. Weeks set all kinds of records as a prep player in Arizona before heading to BYU where he played sparingly.
Sterling Napier is in his fourth year in UTEP's system and is the best blocker of the group. Augie Touris saw action in three games last season and didn't register a catch. Sani Buckingham played in five games last year and used primarily as a blocker.
11. Texas A&M
A&M lists eight tight ends on its roster. None of which have registered a catch for the Aggies. Virginia Tech transfer Kalvin Cline caught a few passes in Blacksburg but none so far in College Station. At 6-5, 245 he has ideal size. He's the best receiver of the group, we use that term loosely.
Tanner Schorp is an A&M legacy, his old man Greg was a great Aggie tight end in the early 90's. He's is a bit undersized for the uses A&M has at the position, i.e. mainly an H-back blocker. The senior from Reagan has played the most snaps of any Aggie tight end on the roster.
Behind Cline and Schorp are a bunch of unknowns. Jayln Judkins was a relatively productive high school player for at Angleton. Grant Gustafson played at Fort Worth All-Saints. Greer Shetler saw some very limited playing time last season for the Aggies.
12. Texas Tech
Texas Tech doesn't believe in tight ends and has none on its roster. Zero. Duly noted Kliff. Duly noted.