OSU 2013 Season in Review: Tight End

CORVALLIS – Any year is a good year when three of your tight ends positionally rank among the Top 10 in the Pac-12 for receiving yards. Plus, Connor Hamlett notched the most receptions of any TE in the conference with 40, while Caleb Smith maintained the third highest yards per catch average – a healthy 13.7 YPC - for TEs with at least 25 receptions on the year. And the best news of all is…

They'll be back next season.

Junior H-back Connor Hamlett and sophomore tight ends Caleb Smith and Kellen Clute combined for 866 yards, 11 TDs and 84 receptions between them. That's nothing to shake a stick at.

For all you stick shakers out there who think that those numbers aren't as impressive through a lens split three ways, bear in mind that OSU runs a system hell-bent on using tight ends large and small, fast and slow, in order to achieve offensive success.

Yep, Oregon State has yet to give into all this hoity-toity spread offense stuff that makes a tight end feel like an extra in a film starring Clooney, Pitt and Washington.

Above all, they haven't given up hope on the position in the way that Cal, WSU and Arizona have done.

In short, OSU kicked it old school in 2013, using a bounty of tight ends to their advantage to confuse opposing defenses with screens, pass/run action plays and medium range throws. They focused on the big bodies and solid hands of Clute, Hamlett, Smith and senior-to-be Tyler Perry (7 receptions, 58 yards and a 8.3 YPC average) and it paid off.

I would venture to say that Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf's dogged insistence on the value of a good receiving/blocking TE is part of what made OSU's offense not only unique in 2013, but successful.

The Beavs were one of the few teams that frequently employed a dual tight end set for purposes outside of the typical blocking formations meant to bolster the run game. I can only imagine that the collective production of the unit would have been greater if Hamlett hadn't been hampered by a nagging knee injury that kept him out for two games, and hindered his in-game explosiveness at other times.

And yes, Smith needs to cut down on his false starts. But the larger point remains: junior QB Sean Mannion targeted the combination of Smith and Hamlett more than any other receiver or tailback outside of Brandin Cooks.

And skilled, big tight ends have always been hard to cover. With less of them out there, with defenses having less experience going up against one, I'd say that doesn't just mean the 2013 season was a success at that spot, it also bodes well for the Beavs in going forward.

My grade pans out to a solid B+

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