Watching a tight end in college football catch a 20-plus yard pass is like watching a major leaguer leg out a triple. It happens, but it’s rare. In Mike MacIntyre’s six seasons as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes, seeing a tight end catch a 20-plus yard pass was more like a ‘Bigfoot’ sighting. In 73 games during the MacIntyre era, (not including the 2016 Alamo Bowl) Buffaloes tight ends caught a combined 75 passes for 859 yards and five touchdowns. That’s slightly over one reception for 11.8 yards per game; 12.5 receptions for 143.2 yards and less than one touchdown per season.
Enter Mel Tucker and Jay Johnson. Colorado’s new head coach and offensive coordinator have vowed that the tight end will become a focal point of the Buffaloes new Pro-Style offense.
“We’re going to use a tight end in our offense.” Tucker told CUBuffs.com contributing editor Neill Woelk.“We’d like to use a couple of them in a game at one time if we can. The more the merrier.”
Auburn grad-transfer Jalen Harris and junior college transfer Darrion Jones are the likely front runners to receive the most playing time at the position. But make no mistake, the Buffaloes are loaded with eight tight ends on their roster, including Jared Poplawski and Brady Russell, who have each seen the field for the Black and Gold. They may also deploy senior Beau Bisharat, a former tailback shifted to tight end this spring, and Legend Brumbaugh, a former quarterback and son of Buffaloes defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh.
This fall is certainly shaping up for what could be a big year for the tight end position in Boulder, Colo. Prior to the MacIntyre era, tight ends we’re used more predominantly in the Buffaloes offense.
Here’s a look at my Top 5 tight ends in Colorado Buffaloes history:
No. 5 Jon Embree (1983-’86)
The head coach that Mike MacIntyre replaced in 2013 checks in at number five on my list. Before Jon Embree was leading the Buffaloes from the sidelines, he was an offensive weapon at the tight end position. Embree finished his CU career with 80 catches for 1,166 yards and five touchdowns before being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the sixth round of the 1987 NFL Draft. His 51 receptions as a sophomore in 1984 set the record for most receptions by a tight end in school history.
No. 4 J.V. Cain (1971-’73)
In three seasons, Cain accumulated 873 yards on 61 receptions. He was selected 7thoverall in the 1974 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, one of only two Buffaloes (Daniel Graham) tight ends to be selected in the first round. He played for the Cardinals for four years before his tragic death in 1979. While working out in extreme heat, the 28-yeard old collapsed on the practice field and was pronounced dead at the hospital a few hours later. His number 88 is one of five Cardinals numbers retired.
No. 3 Joe Klopfenstein (2003-’05)
Klopfenstein holds the school record for most touchdowns by a tight end (13), and he did so in only three seasons. He finished with 86 receptions for 1,076 yards before being drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.
No. 2 Christian Fauria (1991-’94)
A year after Bill McCartney’s Colorado Buffaloes won the National Championship, Christian Fauria stepped onto Folsom Field for the first time. In four years in Boulder, Fauria amassed 98 receptions for 1,058 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was drafted in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks in 1995 and later won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. Fauria’s son, Caleb, verbally committed to play for the Buffaloes beginning in 2020.
No. 1 Daniel Graham (1998-’01)
The only Buffaloes player to win the John Mackey Award (most outstanding tight end), Graham holds the school record for most career receptions (106) and most receiving yards (1,543) by a tight end. In his senior season, Graham totaled 51 catches for 753 yards and six touchdowns, easily the best season by a tight end in school history. He was the 21stoverall choice by the Patriots in 2002 and won two rings with them alongside Fauria. Graham finished his 11-year NFL career with 224 receptions for 2,490 yards and 25 touchdowns.