Over the past few seasons, the tight end has been a featured part of the Syracuse offense. When the Orange went to an up tempo style last year, that diminished to some extent. There is a question mark heading into fall camp as to how much George McDonald will utilize the position in his offense. That said, there are some interested players to keep an eye on as Syracuse looks towards their season opener against Penn State.
Beckett Wales is pretty well set as the starter entering his senior season. He had a solid year in 2012 grabbing 35 passes (second most in Syracuse history for a tight end) for 389-yards and two touchdowns. He improved as a blocker, but remains inconsistent in that area. Wales' role could increase if the wide receiver position lacks production. His combination of size and athleticism creates mismatches with many linebackers. If Wales can work on his blocking, specifically in the run game, he will round out his skill set and become the all-around tight end the Orange are looking for.
The Young Guns
Josh Parris enters his redshirt freshman season coming off of a strong spring. He showed the ability to make plays over the middle and was solid as a blocker. Parris has a lot of upside with his speed and hands. While supplanting Wales is not likely, a strong camp should put him very much in the rotation. Combining with Wales, he gives Syracuse two pass catching tight ends that the opposition must account for. Parris stepping up in the spring is part of the reason the staff felt comfortable moving Ron Thompson to defensive end.
Two true freshman have uphill battles to make a significant impact in 2013. However, Tyler Provo may be the most likely right away. His blocking ability is already the best among the group. The Syracuse legacy could step in as a blocking tight end, primarily, and impact the run game. Don't be surprised if Provo is involved in big packages with three tight ends, or lines up as a fullback in goal line situations.
P.J. Batten has the most upside at the position. His athleticism and speed are exceptional. As he looks to learn the offense and become integrated into the program, a year in the strength and conditioning program may be the best for his long-term development. Still, the ceiling on Batten is very, very high. A strong camp could force the staff to find a way to get him onto the field.
Jacob Green is entering his sophomore season. He will likely contribute primarily on special teams or in a reserve role if Syracuse elects to redshirt Batten or Provo.
Starter: Beckett Wales
Backup: Josh Parris
Backup: Tyler Provo
Redshirt: P.J. Batten