Beaver tight ends poised to emerge?

WHEN IT COMES TO the grabmasters who don the black and orange, two of the more prevalent storylines this offseason have been the return of Sammie Stroughter and what sophomore-to-be James Rodgers will do for an encore in '08. But the Beaver Nation may want to also keep their eyes on a tight ends group, one stacked deep and who might be ready to do what Beaver TEs did in '06, '04 and '03.

Last year, it was the success of the Oregon State fly sweep that was the big surprise on offense. Could it be this year the Oregon State tight ends will be the ones who have people talking in similar tones?

If so, success there won't be unique to recent history.

"We didn't throw the ball last year like we did in the past -- If it's going to come back, it's going to come back to the tight end, too," Mike Riley said this spring.

MANY PEOPLE, when they consider scoring production through the air, immediately think of the wide receivers. But in 2006, tight end Joe Newton led the Beavs in receiving touchdowns. And that Newton led the receivers in scoring is more notable when you consider '06 was also the season Sammie Stroughter tore up the league with 1,293 receiving yards.

Two years earlier, in '04, Newton tied for the team lead in TDs. That was the season Mike Hass torched opposing secondaries to the tune of 1,379 receiving hashes.

Tim Euhus shared the touchdown lead with Hass in '03, while both Hass and James Newson went over the 1,000 receiving yard mark.

This year, the Beaver tight ends might be ready to take aim at such lofty heights.

"That position will catch 60 balls," says Riley.

That figure would nearly double the tight end/h-back production of last year. And the prediction might also end up being on the conservative side.

IT'S A DEEP group, with Howard Croom, Gabe Miller, John Reese, Brady Camp and Joe Halahuni all vying for playing time, and Miller and others also spent time at the h-back, a hybrid of a tight end and fullback position. Colby Prince was slowed by injury this spring and will likely redshirt.

The spring depth chart listed Croom as the starter followed by Miller. One concern will be if sophomore-to-be Miller, who dislocated a bone in his wrist and missed the last part of the spring, can stay healthy. A torn and then re-torn Achilles tendon hampered the beginning of his OSU career.

Most college football charts, when looking at the No. 3-4 players, they normally don't see much playing time but in this case, with Reese and Camp, they're both pushing Croom and Miller for playing time. Halahuni, before he was injured, also had his moments.

Croom and Camp look to be the top blockers, and Croom coming out of the spring gets the nod as the best all-around at the position. But Camp had a very good spring and Miller, who did a good amount of work at h-back this spring, looks to be emerging as a significant offensive threat -- Reese also challenged in that regard.

"If we can throw the ball, our tight ends will be productive," says Riley.

And therein lies the rub. If, as Riley implies, the Oregon State line gives the quarterback time and the QB seizes the opportunity.

But if it comes together, and there were indications this spring that it well could, the tight ends might give Oregon State fans something to talk about this year.

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