I made some predictions before the spring about the tight end position, and I was actually pretty spot-on with some of them. Cordary Allen has since left the team (I talked about how he was a guy without a position) and Alex Wood has been practicing at FB more than at TE. Unfortunately, my predictions coming true leave us very thin here, and we're definitely going to be relying on multiple true freshmen here. It will hopefully turn out well, but you would rather not find yourself being completely dependent on the rookies. Not exactly a recipe for success.
- Nick Kasa, Sr - He is still working on his consistency catching the ball and digging deeper into the playbook, but it sounds like he's going to be able to give us a good amount of snaps at the on-the-line Y spot. Last season Alex Lewis filled this role, but he's going to be our starting left guard this year (this prediction was off--I said he'd be the left tackle...). Kasa looks the part and has all the athleticism you could hope for, it's just he only started playing the position towards the end of last season. Hopefully the large number of reps he's receiving this offseason get him to a point where he can see the field for 200ish snaps in 2012.
- Scott Fernandez, Jr - Walk on. He converted to tight end before last season. He didn't see the field a ton this year, but he has played some fullback as well, so he may work his way back into the rotation this spring. Has good size. He's still more of a blocker than a receiver, so he's going to be behind Kasa at that TE spot.
- Alex Wood, Jr - Has since moved to FB
- Cordary Allen, So - Has since left the team.
- Kyle Slavin, So - He is going to get the first shot at the move tight end spot. He wasn't asked to do much when he saw the field last year, so I don't know exactly how good he's going to be, but we'll hear plenty about him this summer. He's still getting bigger, so it will be interesting to see if he gets snaps as the sole TE when they line up in the 11 & 12 sets (1 TE/1 RB & 1 TE/2 RB, respectively).
- Vincent Hobbs, Fr - He's gotten the most press of the incoming TEs so far this summer. He is supposedly up to 250 lbs (at a solid but not spectacular 6'3") and is very fast. He has a good shot to leap right to the top of the depth chart if he has some blocking skills, leapfrogging Slavin for the move TE spot and possibly as the top guy when they roll out their single-TE sets. He's one of the two true freshmen I see getting a bunch of playing time in 2012.
- Austin Ray, Fr - And this is the other one. Ray is still filling out, but he should still be able to contribute at a pretty thin position for us. I don't know if he's going to be strong enough right away to get any time as the on-the-line Y, but he can probably do some work at the move spot. He's got great length, at 6'6" and it looks like he has long arms, so hopefully he'll get a handle on his blocking technique quickly. If these true freshmen aren't ready to contribute right away, our offense is really going to be limited in what it can do.
- Sean Irwin, Fr - He's almost a wild card at TE. He's in between Ray and Hobbs when it comes to size, and he's coming off an injury that robbed him of most of his senior season. I really liked what I saw of his film and I think he's going to be a very versatile player for us, but I don't know if he'll be ready to contribute right away. That may be a good thing when it comes to class balance, but we are probably going to need all hands on deck at tight end.
We pulled in enough TEs in this recruiting class and I think each of them could be a big contributor for us. But this offense really relies on versatility from the TE position, so these guys are going to have to be ready quickly. Kasa staying healthy and learning as much of the playbook as possible is going to help a lot, and it sounds like he's improved as the offseason has gone on, but we won't know until we really get those summer reports. There is a ton of potential at tight end, with athletes like Kasa, Hobbs and Ray in the mix, it's just up to Embree, Brookhart and Co. to develop them.