the lookout list: TE
By Simon Carroll
You won’t find Albert Okwuegbunam, Jared Pinkney or Colby Parkinson on this list. Here we pinpoint ten not-so-familiar Tight End names that will make a big impact this season:
Mitchell Wilcox, USF Bulls
Wilcox took a leap in production last year, hauling in 43 passes for 540 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Charlie Strong’s first season as head coach. A middling season for The Bulls has brought about some change – Offensive Co-Ordinator Sterlin Gilbert left to take the McNeese State job and has been replaced by Kerwin Bell who, as Valdosta State’s head coach last year went undefeated and averaged 52 points a game.
That bodes well for this passing game and Wilcox, who in his junior year will become QB Blake Barnett’s go to guy. He has the size to dominate over the middle but will need to improve his ball security after dropping too many passes in 2018.
Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic under the tutelage of offensive guru Lane Kiffin had a couple of dynamic playmakers on their roster last year. Running Back Devin Singletary has hit the NFL but Harrison Bryant returns to become the focal point of this offense. PFF graded Bryant as the best returning Tight End in college football this offseason and it’s easy to see why – sure hands, a reception machine and unmatched in the blocking game.
Quarterback familiarity will help him improve on his 662 yards and 4 touchdowns this year as Chris Robison returns, and with a couple of productive receivers leaving he’s in line for the lion’s share of the passing yards. Playing for The Owls can often leave you overlooked but Bryant may just be the best kept secret in college football in 2019.
Grant Calcaterra, Oklahoma Sooners
Possibly the biggest name on this list, Calcaterra is hardly the prototypical Tight End. Listed at a generous 220lbs he’s probably more akin to a slot receiver or h-back, but his versatility and uncanny ability to find soft spots in coverage on key downs has made him a valuable weapon in Norman the last two years.
The production of work, as you’d expect in an offense with CeeDee Lamb and Hollywood Brown, wasn’t impressive on paper (26 receptions, 396 yards) yet his proficiency as a redzone threat garnered 6 touchdowns off just 26 receptions all year (23.1%). Able to line up in a variety of positions and formations, Calcaterra is a prime candidate to see a huge upturn in production despite playing with his third Quarterback in three seasons.
Matt Bushman, BYU Cougars
It says something about the consistency of this Cougars offense that with 500 yards in both his freshman and sophomore years Matt Bushman has led his team in production. That should change dramatically with the emergence of Quarterback Zach Wilson who will look to carry his promising form from the end of 2018 into the new year. Bushman is as sure-handed a pass catcher as you can imagine, with only one dropped ball; check out this catch (3:09) to see what he brings to this BYU offense:
He’s a big target to aim at too, measuring in at 6’5” and 245lbs. This doesn’t stop him from getting open downfield – you can lay the ball in front of him and he’ll bring it in. With just five scores in his college career he’ll be looking to add more touchdowns to his game in 2019.
Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin Badgers
Smooth. That’s the word to describe Jake Ferguson. 6’5” and 239lb, Ferguson is ridiculously graceful for a man his size. He’s a sneaky recipient of the football who glides down the field & knows how to get open. His route running skills and sticky hands have caught the attention of NFL scouts despite being a sophomore in 2019.
After redshirting for a year he had a strong first season on the field for the Badgers. 450 yards and 4 touchdowns in an offense primarily focused around running the football is a good return. And with ‘the next Russell Wilson’ in Graham Mertz coming in at Quarterback those figures may soar. Young signal callers like Mertz are notoriously unpredictable, but Tight Ends tend to benefit from a Quarterback bedding in. Jonathan Taylor will be the bread and butter but Ferguson will have his name called often in Madison this season.
Hunter Bryant, Washington Huskies
The ultimate mismatch, Hunter Bryant has lined up all over the formation for the Huskies the last two years and utilises his speed to gain separation from Linebackers or Cornerbacks. Despite his smaller than deisred frame for a Tight End he possesses a good leap and has shown he can compete for the ball in the air.
Bryant has significant injury history and it has limited his production – just 33 receptions, 569 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first two years in Seattle. It’s a concern for this Huskies offense who will be relying on him to be a focal point of their attack in 2019. If he can stay on the field he should be a huge weapon for Jacob Eason as he beds in following his transfer from Georgia.
Brycen Hopkins, Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers are loaded with weapons heading into 2019. And Brycen Hopkins might sneak under the radar when it comes to identifying the threats on this offense. Probably the biggest deep threat out of these Tight Ends, Hopkins athleticism jumps off the screen. And if a defense sleeps on him he will carve them up for big splash gains.
Hopkins has been criticised for a lack of Touchdowns over his career and that’s fair. But not many other Tight Ends would have nine scores over three years with Rondale Moore on your team. What he really needs to improve is his value over the middle. That would translate to increased third down usage and a more complete game. If that happens, Purdue are going to have one exciting offense this year.
Joey Magnifico, Memphis Tigers
With a name like Joey Magnifico, I just had to get him on this list. And one look at his stats and he justifies his inclusion. As a Junior he didn’t drop one ball thrown his way in 2018 – 21 catches out of 21 targets. That’s not a massive body of work but check this out – he had the most yards per catch out of any Tight End with 11.4.
Magnifico has been criticised for a lack of athleticism but his nimbleness in short spaces seems to get him open. Check out the acres of space he has for this touchdown reception:
Magnifico enters his senior year at Memphis and will hope to have more of a role in 2019. If he can achieve that but maintain his efficiency he’ll explode. His game minimises mistakes and he’ll be an intriguing name to watch in the NFL Draft.
Pat Freiermuth, Penn State Nittany Lions
An impressive freshman year has given Penn State fans high expectations of Pat Freiermuth in 2019. He registerd 8 touchdowns as he proved to be a valuable redzone threat. A year under his belt learning from James Franklin and it’s reasonable to expect improvement this year.
He’ll have to. Penn State lost a litany (not a Nittany) of talent on offense, including QB Trace McSorley and receiver Juwan Johnson. There’s still some doubt as to who starts at Quarterback in 2019; Sophomore Sean Clifford appears the favourite. But Freiermuth showed when McSorley went out that he could work with anyone under center.
He has work to do refining his game. His blocking was poor and he let too many balls slip through his fingers. But these are hopefully just first year creases to be ironed out. Expect Freiermuth’s long name to be a significant part of your College Football experience this Autumn.
Jared Rice, Fresno State
One of the more well-rounded Tight Ends in this group, Jared Rice has a complete game. He dominated for Fresno State last year, recording the second-most receptions in college football with 55. With KeeSean Johnson departed to the NFL, I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t improve that number.
Rice has shown proficiency operating short to intermediate routes. His yards after the catch are impressive, utilising a combination of strength and elusiveness. But more impressive is his deep threat – 171 of his 664 yards last year come on long passes. No Tight End made more out of his supply than Rice, with over 1,000 yards his last two seasons.
As with others, Rice needs to up his production in the red zone. He’s never had more than three touchdowns in a year during his time playing at Jim Sweeney Field. With Johnson gone the Bulldogs will be relying on him to become the go-to guy in 2019.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.