Football: 2003 Tight end preview

Here's an early look at Army's tight ends for 2003. Army will be graduating 3 of its top 4 players at this position opening up opportunities for a number of roster candidates to make an impact in 2003. A recap of the key losses and players in the mix in 2003 follows:

Key losses:

Warren Stewart, 6-2, 228, graduating SR. Warren was converted to tight end just prior to the start of the 2002 after pre-season injuries to two other senior tight ends left Army with no playing experience at the position heading into 2002. Warren ended up starting 9 of 12 games and finished with 14 receptions for 153 yards and 1 TD. Warren was a bit undersized for a D1-A tight end, but he brought speed and athleticism, as well as game experience, to a position with very questionable depth due to injuries.

Mike Schwartz, 6-4, 275, graduating SR. Mike was a protypical tight end who served as a chief back-up to the very productive Clint Dodson in 2000 and 2001. He was a tenacious run-blocker who also had the capability to make a tough catch in the crowd. Were it not for a pre-season knee injury, Mike would have no doubt put up credible numbers in 2002. Mike is the son of former Army General Tom Schwartz, who was a starter on Army's defensive line in the mid-1960s, and later went on to achieve 4-star rank and command all U.S. Forces in Korea until the summer of 2002. Mike came to Army as a football transfer from Rice University and he was ineligible to play as a plebe due to transfer rules. He logged playing time in 2000 and 2001 as a back-up, before being sidelined with a pre-season knee injury in 2002. He fought back from his injury to appear in the season's final two games. He had 1 reception for 10 yards against Navy.

Alton McCallum, 6-2, 260, graduating SR. Alton is a cousin of former Navy and NFL standout RB Napoleon McCallum. Not surprisingly, Alton began his collegiate career as a FB under Army's wishbone system. He made a huge impact in his first collegiate game as a sophomore in 1999 by rushing for 94 yards on 9 carries in the season opener versus Wake Forest. He teamed with Mike Wallace to give Army the biggest and most productive fullback tandem during Army's wishbone era. Under Todd Berry's pass oriented offense in 2000, Alton shared playing time at the one running back position with Michael Wallace and several other players, finishing the season with 74 carries for 231 yards. He often received the ball in short yardage situations and fought for many a first down. Prior to the 2001 season, Alton was switched to tight end and was poised to get some playing time at that position. Unfortunately, he had to sit out that season due to academic difficulties before being able to return for his final campaign in 2002. Misfortune beset Alton again and he was sidelined to an injury at the season's start. He worked his way back on the field and appeared in the season's final 8 games. He finished with 3 receptions for 37 yards and 1 touchdown.

Projected Starter:

Doug Horaist, 6-4, 240, JR. Doug is the only returning tight end with any significant game experience and he should be the frontrunner to start in 2003. He is big and athletic with good hands. Doug appeared in 10 games and finished with 2 receptions for 31 yards. As the starter in 2003, Army will need him to haul in at least 20+ receptions and provide solid run blocking.

Others in the mix:

Brandon Johnson, 6-3, 245 SR. Brandon has made brief appearances on the depth chart the past two seasons, but his playing time has been very limited thus far. He has displayed some flashes of excitement at practices, and he also had receptions in the last two spring games. Expect Brandon to letter in 2003, and he could also land as high as the 2nd team on the depth chart.

Christian Motagliani, 6-3, 230 JR. Christian is a converted quarterback who was switched to tight end last spring. Although a bit undersized, he showed great promise during spring ball before his stock seemed to drop somewhat this past fall. He should be ready to reemerge into the tight end picture heading into spring practice and he may earn a spot on the depth chart.

Jared Ulekowski, 6-3, 235 SO. Jared had a great prep career with 32 receptions his senior year. He is also the son of a West Point graduate, so expect Jared to have the determination to make it through the Academy as a cadet-athlete with great success. He could be in the picture in 2003.

Donnie Bowen, 6-3, 225 SO. Donnie is tall and lean and he will likely have to build himself up a bit more before he can shoulder a major role as a run blocker. Nevertheless, he has good hands and speed, as well as the height to catch the ball in the crowd. He will be hungry to make an impact this spring.

Phillip Edmondson, 6-4, 240 SO. Phillip is another intriguing prospect with good prep credentials. Expect him to be in the thick of the fight to earn a spot on the 3-deep.

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Overall Assessment:

Tight end was seemingly the forgotten position in the Army offense in 2002 due to injuries and other circumstances. The 2002 cohort of tight ends combined for only 21 receptions in 2002, after yielding 40 + receptions in each of the previous two seasons between departed starter Clint Dodson and his back-ups. Despite the loss of 3 experienced seniors from this position after 2002, I expect the production from this position to pick-up in 2003. Doug Horaist appears to be the clear favorite to start, but the line-up after him is still very much up for grabs. Army is fortunate to have a number of roster prospects to look at, as well as some highly regarded incoming plebe tight ends scheduled to report to the Academy in July. The most noteworthy incoming plebe is 3* recruit, Chase McCoy. Chase is a 6-4, 250 prospect from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I project Army will be better overall at the tight end position in terms of receptions. The leading candidates should also provide better run blocking than the converted linebacker and starting tight end Warren Stewart was able to provide based on size alone. Expect Army to be overall improved at tight end in 2003.


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