Tight ends are often unheralded in the Mountain West, but the conference has quietly recruited a wealth of athletes at the position who could play important roles for their teams in 2016. Or, at least, the Mackey Award watch list, given annually to the best player at the position, would give one that impression.
Three seniors and a junior were named to this year’s list, headlined by San Jose State’s Billy Freeman. The Spartan tight end has gotten some preseason buzz as a first-team all-conference selection from various publications, with good reason, after leading all MWC tight ends in 2015 with 48 catches, 586 yards, and six touchdowns. He figures to be a critical component to Ron Caragher’s offense following Tyler Ervin’s departure.
Nevada’s Jarred Gipson didn’t put up numbers that jump off the stat sheet — 19 catches, 247 yards, five touchdowns — but the big senior’s thirteen yards per catch did lead the Mackey nods. Utah State’s Wyatt Houston also had a fairly quiet 2015 with just 25 catches and 307 yards, but he’s also one of the few returning starters that Kent Myers will have to lean on and he did average fourteen yards per catch in conference last year.
Boise State’s Jake Roh is the lone junior to make the list. It might have been easy to overlook Roh in 2015, as he finished fifth on the Broncos in both catches (33) and receiving yards (357), but his numbers improved as the season progressed and he should benefit from Brett Rypien’s year of experience under center.
It will probably take a standout season for any of the four to earn some serious consideration because each of last year’s finalists hailed from the Power 5, including Mackey winner Hunter Henry from Arkansas.