Spring football has already started for some Mountain West teams, and the rest will start hitting the field in the next few weeks. We are going to spend the next few months previewing each position group and where each team stands. So far, we have looked at quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers; this week we are going to take a look at tight ends.
Trey McBride. He’s the best tight end in the Mountain West, and I’m not sure it is particularly close. McBride should be one of the main targets in the passing game, and his value to the team stretches all the way to special teams.
San Jose State
Derek Deese Jr. isn’t far behind Trey McBride. He emerged as one of Nick Starkell’s most reliable targets last season and has the size and intangibles to play at the next level. With Tre Walker and Billy Gaither gone, Deese’s numbers should be even better this fall.
Boise State barely makes this category, especially after losing John Bates who is starting to look like he might get drafted. Former quarterback Riley Smith emerged as a reliable target in the passing game, and Tyneil Hopper is a solid blocker. This unit won’t turn many heads, but it should be solid.
The Lobos might have the deepest group of tight ends in the conference with a wealth of players returning and some of their best pass catchers being part of this unit. When breaking down this team, tight ends might be their biggest strength.
San Diego State
The Aztecs narrowly make this mark, and it is in large part to Daniel Bellinger. Bellinger has been productive in his three seasons and could be in for a big senior year if the passing attack can be more productive.
I feel like I’m cheating a little bit by putting the Wolf Pack here. Sure, Cole Turner is listed as a tight end on their roster, but is the former wide receiver really a tight end? Turner was an elite threat in the passing game this past season. He finished with 49 catches for 605 yards.
The Rebels have solid depth at tight end and a proven pass catcher in Noah Bean. My biggest concern with this group was the drop off in the run game this past season. Were the tight ends a part of that problem?
If we were grading this unit on size and potential they would be in the “Good” category. Like the wide receivers, it is really difficult to grade these players on their receiving abilities, because they have had limited opportunities. It wouldn’t shock me to see these guys thrive under their new offensive coordinator. But for now, I’m going to be a bit cautious on how I grade this group.
If Carson Terrell comes back this unit could be solid. The rest of the group has only combined for two catches. The Aggies have a tradition of featuring tight ends; we will see if that changes under Blake Anderson.
Air Force (Good and Bad)
Like Wyoming, this might not be a fair evaluation of the Falcons. They only have three tight ends on their current roster, and they mostly serve as an extension of the offensive line. In the limited passing attack that Air Force uses, they don’t really utilize them. Now, if we are including fullbacks in this list, I will go ahead and bump them up to the “Good” category. Timothy Jackson is a beast and is built more like a tight end.
The tight ends were not featured much this past season for the Bulldogs. The five returners at the position combined for less than 10 catches. With wide receiver and running back being such a strength, the Bulldogs will need the big guys to be effective blockers.
Todd Graham is trying to add the tight end back into this offense with the signing of two transfers. But this is still a really thin position and there really isn’t any evidence that tight ends will be featured much this fall.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s article, as I take a peek at the offensive lines of the Mountain West.