Today’s position preview is one of my favorite positions. The tight end has turned into a menacing presence in systems across the country, most notably the spread offense. We tend to see more downfield throws these days to tight ends in the seams, and a lot of those 6-foot-5 plus bodies are split out wide, creating mismatches against smaller defenders.
Matt Campbell loves to run the ball, and therefore we will see more play-action and use of the tight end this season.
At Toledo, Campbell often split the tight end out, spreading the defense and providing more space for the running backs to roam. We will see that a lot this year, and if a mismatch ensues, look for the tight end to be a top target in the red zone. In fact, Toledo threw the ball to their tight ends 48 times in 2015.
Campbell even exclaimed his love for the NFL’s best tight end. “I like Gronk,” said Campbell. “That’s my guy. If you’ve got Gronk, let me know. Tough to find.”
Indeed he is. Let’s start this off with a video of the NFL’s favorite party playboy
When Campbell said the cupboard wasn’t bare, he wasn’t talking about the tight end position. Returning to the team is all of TWO receptions, made by redshirt senior Justin Chandler last season. In fact, ISU tight ends had a total of SIX all last year. I would bet the over for that one in Vegas, folks.
Chandler is listed number one on the depth chart, and is known as more of a space eater who can block downfield. He has more experience than his counterpart, JUCO transfer Clifford Fernandez, who transferred in from Southwest Mississippi Community College. Fernandez has more upside and has the fleeter feet and better hands of the two.
Waiting in the wings is one of 2016’s most promising recruits –- Chase Allen. Allen (whose dad was an assistant at ISU in the McCarney days) was a 3-star recruit who chose ISU over Michigan, Nebraska, Florida State and others. He has the most potential, but in my opinion will redshirt to build muscle and grow into his 6-foot-6 frame.
There is a slight possibility, due to injury or other circumstances, that Allen could see the field in 2016, but my money's on him wearing that redshirt.
One of the new positions on the depth chart is the “F” position. It is the hybrid fullback/H-Back that will be a lead blocker and spend most of his time in motion.
Filling that role are sophomore Cole Anderson and junior Sam Harms. Campbell talked a lot about position flexibility in his press conference, and these two could also see time at the TE spot.
Stacking up Against the Big 12
Not every offense utilizes the tight end the same way. Baylor had 400-pound LaQuan McGowan, who has since graduated, and was more of a media story than what his production was on the field.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State bring back the favorites for top tight end in the conference. The Sooners’ Mark Anderson comes off seven touchdowns from a year ago and a 1st Team All-Big 12 honor. The Cowboys’ Blake Jarwin follows suit and will get plenty of touches in OSU’s pass-happy offense.
After that, look out for K-State’s hybrid Cody Small, who fills the void of graduated 2nd Team All-American Glenn Gronkowski. The Wildcats love to mix it up with their FB/TE, and it will be no different this year.
Texas Tech is a sure pick for last in the conference, as they don’t even list any tight ends on the roster. I’m not even joking –- check it out here.
There is one sure thing: the tight end position will see a lot more balls thrown to them in 2016. Look for a mixture of Chandler (better blocker) and Fernandez (better pass catcher) in certain packages designed for different game situations. I foresee Fernandez playing more snaps, utilizing his speed and ability to stretch the field.