Texas Football 2011 Preseason Position by Position: Tight End

Never have so many contributed so little.

Given that Texas spent most of its time in four receiver sets the last three years, it only stands to reason that we carry eight tight ends on our current roster. The roster management equivalent of having five punters. Our TE logistics are basically like putting ourselves on probation with the NCAA for three years and forfeiting three scholarships.

Even if our base set was a two TE offense, we'd have no reason to carry more than six. A standard pro set offense needs 4 or 5. Alabama has 5 scholarship TEs. We have...8.

Aside from not understanding supply chain, our TE model is currently fascinated with the idea of taking oversized WRs who are a step slow, adding 30 pounds to compound that, resulting in a Shetland pony TE who doesn’t stretch the field and who doesn’t much like blocking. For diversity, we sprinkle in large guys with minimal athletic ability who volleyball set every other ball thrown their way.

As for the oversized WR philosophy, let me defuse the predictable JerMichael Finley retort now with three facts:

1. Finley was 6-5.
2. Finley was a near-elite level basketball player and as a WR he ran really well
3. Finley’s frame could carry 245+

So yes, if we take overgrown WRs that fit those parameters, I’m on board.

Minor criticisms aside, I think we’re doing an awesome job here.

Dominique Jones
Barrett Matthews
DJ Grant
Blaine Irby
Ahmard Howard
Trey Graham
Darius Terrell
MJ McFarland

Dominique Jones showed promise last year as a freshman, particularly as a blocker. And he actually looks like a TE (6-3, 240) and played it in high school. Finally - a real definable asset at TE even if he’s not a great receiving threat! As befits our luck here, he’ll probably be doing that for Blinn.

Barrett Matthews is an undersized TE (6-1, 230) who brought decent speed and tenacity to the position, but unfortunately he has pigskin hand allergies combined with issues blocking college sized DEs. His hands appear to be a mental issue and if he can resolve it, he does run pretty well.

DJ Grant (6-2, 230) had legitimate speed and athletic ability coming out of Austin LBJ and, though undersized, he seemed ready to provide Texas with a viable TE receiving threat, if minimal blocking. Sadly, DJ has had knee injures in consecutive seasons and it remains to be seen what percentage he is of his former self.

Blaine Irby was a true receiving TE with skill, hands, and great quickness and was well on his way to being an all-conference level performer before his tragic injury against Rice. I know a lot of people are hopeful that Irby will provide college football’s comeback story of the year and lock down this position, but irrespective of how many pounds he can leg extend or whether he’s cleared to play, I don’t see a way that he can be anything but a shadow of his former self. I’m just happy the guy has recovered such that he can pick up his kids one day. Clearly, we're all pulling for him.

Senior Ahmard Howard (6-4, 250) is a big body TE who will earn his scholarship if he can give us a blocking presence more than what he has provided thus far.

Trey Graham has spent most of his career on IR. Physically, he actually has the frame of a real TE, but it’s unclear what his actual talent level is.

RS Freshman Darius Terrell was an athletic, oversized WR with a slow 40 time and good hands that might be an athletic, undersized TE with a respectable 40 time and good hands. He's now around 6-2, 235. Fine. I'll take it. To a starving man, spam tastes like New York strip. His upside looks something like Derek Lewis. His downside? Another converted WR who didn’t pan.

Freshman MJ McFarland is a take more along the lines of a Finley, but he doesn’t run all that well at 6-5, 240. His TE game is more of the basketball, post-up variety and he has excellent hands. He’s an intriguing prospect, but he’s also a true freshman and not physically ready for the college game at the LOS.

Could Malcolm Williams play TE for us? We’ve certainly tinkered with him there, but it remains to be seen if that’s just a look or a commitment. We’ll know the answer to that when summer drills commence.

Summary

This position has had bad fortune, but that bad luck has only served to emphasize the incredibly poor recruiting and development job we’ve also done here. Nor do I think the constant injuries are a coincidence given our recruiting model. We’ve used up a lot of ammunition to very little effect here. Bruce Chambers was fortunate not to have been caught up in the offseason new blood infusion.

From a production standpoint, your guess is as good as mine.

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