Turel's Big 10 Position Rankings: Tight Ends

In an upcoming issue of GoBlueWolverine the magazine, Josh Turel ranks the top players at each position in the Big Ten conference. These preseason forecasts are subject to change, but here is his outlook in things heading into the 2006 season. In this segment, Turel breaks down the tight ends. Minnesota's Matt Spaeth leads the way.

Tight Ends
1- Matt Spaeth, Senior, Minnesota
2- Scott Chandler, Senior, Iowa
3- Tyler Ecker, Senior, Michigan
4- Dustin Keller, Junior, Purdue
5- Marcel Frost, Junior, Ohio State
6- Rory Nicol, Sophomore, Ohio State
7- Kellen Davis, Junior, Michigan State
8- Patrick Hall, Senior, Penn State
9- Tony Moeaki, Sophomore, Iowa
10-Erryn Cobb, Senior, Northwestern

Also Watch For
Mike Massey, Michigan
Sean Lewis, Wisconsin
Andy Crooks, Wisconsin
Jordan Lyons, Penn State
Dwayne Holmes, Michigan State

This was a tough call at the top, but I’ll go with Minnesota’s Matt Spaeth at number one. Iowa’s Scott Chandler’s receiving stats are impressive (47 rec., 552 yards, 2 TDs) but he is no where near the blocker Spaeth is. I would go as far as to say the Golden Gopher senior is the finest blocking tight end in the country. He isn’t a bad receiver either (26 rec, 333 yards, 4 TDs). With the loss of Jared Ellerson and Jakari Wallace, expect Spaeth to be incorporated more into the passing game. He’s only a decent athlete, but at 6-6, 270 with a large wingspan and soft hands, he is a tough match-up for any defender.

Chandler is another really tough match-up. He’s 6-7 and is a better athlete than Spaeth. If he can improve his inline blocking, he'll jump to the top of this list.

When you factor in Michigan’s Tyler Ecker at number three, it becomes really clear how good this crop of tight ends is. Ecker has dedicated himself more this off season and is ready to take over the tight end job full time. He is a good athlete with nice size at 6-6, has reliable hands, and has knack for finding the open areas against the zone. Expect him to be a key target for Chad Henne this year.

A potential breakout player is Purdue’s Dustin Keller. He’s a tad undersized, but in the Boilermakers spread system, they don't mind trading that for his athletic ability. With a nice array of targets at receiver, Keller will be able to work the middle of the field and be a fine compliment to the passing game.

Two Buckeyes come in at numbers five and six, and based on pure talent, Marcel Frost and Rory Nicol would start for most Big Ten teams. Nicol sat out last year with an injury but many feel he could take the starting job. Meanwhile, Frost was the only productive tight end for the Buckeyes had last year do to all the injuries. He moves well for a big man and performed well in the bowl game against Notre Dame. He is listed as the starter coming out of the spring but this should be one of the more hotly contested battles during Ohio State's fall camp.

Michigan States Kellen Davis will take over full time at tight end for the Spartans this season. He has excellent size and catches the ball very well. The coaches in East Lansing are pleased with the progress he made in the spring.

Patrick Hall is the favorite to replace Isaac Smolko at tight end for the Nittany Lions. He isn’t a standout receiver but he doesn’t have to be. Despite being undersized, he is still a solid blocker.

Iowa’s Tony Moeaki is one of the best young tight ends in the conference and should contribute this season. The Hawkeyes will incorporate him in some two tight end sets and continue to develop him into a promising player for the future.

Northwestern’s Erryn Cobb is a returning starter but doesn’t fit your conventional tight end mold. At 6’1, 255 he is undersized like a number of other tight ends on this list, but the Wildcats like to use him in an up-back role. They motion him around to help block, which is what he does best.

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