Recruiting season is nearly behind us, and spring football is just weeks away. We are going to spend the next couple of months previewing position units in the Mountain West. Please remember that with the extra COVID year, there is some uncertainty on each roster heading into spring football. With that being said, let’s take a look at how each team currently sits at the tight end position.
On paper, this should be a really good group. They have been underutilized in the past year, but there is a ton of experience returning. Senior Riley Smith will likely be listed as the starter, but he will split time with Tyneil Hopper, Kurt Rafdal, and Austin Bolt. This unit should thrive in 2022, the key word being should. True freshman Austin Terry also enrolled early and could see time this fall.
Just McGriff is listed as a wide receiver but is often used more like a tight end. This team has some really intriguing young talent at the tight end position but a shortage of tight ends on the roster. Keep an eye on Jackson Rigby and Parker Buchanan. Both should be reliable targets with their size and athleticism.
Kyle Patterson is one of the most underrated players in the league. He is an excellent blocker and a capable pass catcher. I really like this unit of Falcon tight ends and believe they are poised for a big 2022 season.
This team has massive potential at this position, but like Boise State, they haven’t been utilized. Every tight end on Wyoming’s roster is a big bruiser. They are excellent run blockers, and this coaching staff should utilize them on third-down passing situations more frequently. I think this will be a breakout group for the Cowboys in 2022.
I really like this group for the Rebels; they have a ton of experience returning. The stats won’t blow you away, but they have dependable depth and are strong blockers in the run game. Whoever starts at running back for UNLV will be lucky to have these guys leading the way.
The Bulldogs really didn’t utilize the tight ends much under Kalen DeBoer, but I think Jeff Tedford and Kirby Moore will rely on these guys more frequently. There isn’t a ton of experience in this group, but they have nice depth and size. It will be interesting to see if these guys will be used in the passing game with such a talented group of receivers returning.
San Jose State
Losing Derrick Deese Jr. is a major hit. He was one of the Spartans’ most reliable targets in the passing game the last few seasons. While they lose some talent and will need to find some reliable depth, I would keep a close eye on Iowa State transfer Skylar Loving-Black to become an integral part of the passing attack this season.
San Diego State
Looking through the Aztec roster, there just isn’t a lot of pass-catching experience. This unit will need to emerge in the passing game if the Aztecs are going to prove themselves through the air. Washington transfer Mark Redman will likely be an important part of this tight end group.
According to their current roster, Nevada only has one tight end in Carlton Brown III. Brown did not play in 2021. We know the tight end position was not a huge priority under Norvell, will that change under Ken Wilson?
With a return to the true run and shoot under new head coach Timmy Chang, I don’t anticipate many tight ends on the roster for the Rainbow Warriors. And those tight ends that might be on the roster will likely see most of their action on special teams.
Trey McBride’s don’t grow on trees. The likely first-round draft pick is gone, and new coach Jay Norvell is not likely to utilize the tight ends quite as much. It will be interesting to see how this group is used with the new coaching staff in the passing game or if they will be primarily used in run blocking situations.
This is a young tight-end group with not a ton of experience. They will really need to step it up in the run game if they are going to find any success this year. We know the Lobos will look to establish the run early and often. What we don’t know is whether or not they will get their tight ends involved in the passing game.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” With Trey McBride gone, who do you think is the best tight end in the Mountain West? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.