The Big 12 lost a number of experienced tight ends after the 2011 season, but an influx of young talent will have the opportunity to show of their skills in 2012.
1. Texas- The Longhorns lose an experienced but injury riddled tight end in Blaine Irby in 2012, but senior tight end D.J. Grant caught 16 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. Redshirt freshman tight end M.J. McFarland was highly recruited out of high school and has the size and talent to become a productive tight end in the near future, but did not get any playing time last year. The Longhorns will need a productive tight end next year to jumpstart their struggling passing offense.
2. Baylor- Junior tight end Jordan Najvar caught 15 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Najvar will be Baylors go to tight end in 2012 and quarterback Nick Florence will have a 6-foot-6, 260 pound target in Najvar next year. The Bears also have a senior tight end in Jerod Monk who caught nine passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns last year.
3. Kansas State- Junior tight end Andre McDonald caught nine passes for 136 yards and one touchdown in 2011. McDonald should have a great opportunity to increase his yardage in 2012 as quarterback Collin Klein returns and will continue to extend plays with his legs and use a short passing game at times. The Wildcats also have senior tight end Travis Tannahill who caught 10 passes for 104 yards and one touchdown. This duo could prove to be very important to the offensive success for the Wildcats in 2012.
4. Iowa State- Senior tight end Kurt Hammerschmidt caught 13 passes for 126 yards but did not score in 2011. Hammerschmidt will be counted on as a big part of the Cyclones offense in 2012 both as a blocking and receiving tight end. The Cyclones lost senior tight end Reid Branderhorst which could hurt their offensive rhythm, but Hammerschmidt should be able to make up for the lost starter.
5. Oklahoma State- Senior tight end Justing Horton caught just four passes but reeled in 101 yards for an average of 25.3 yards per catch. Horton should see a lot more action next year as the Cowboys break in a new quarterback and will be in need of a reliable receiving option. The Cowboys also have junior college tight end Blake Jackson (Scottsdale, AZ) and incoming freshman tight end Zac Veatch (Broken Arrow, OK), both of which could battle for playing time.
6. Kansas- As the Jayhawks enter their first year under head coach Charlie Weis, the tight end position should become more important both as an extension of the offensive line and as a receiving threat. Sophomore tight end Jimmay Mundine caught seven passes for 86 yards and one touchdown last year. Mundine will probably see a spike in his numbers in a more pass happy offense in 2012. The Jayhawks do lose tight end Tim Biere to the NFL draft, but the presence of Mundine should be enough for Weis' offense.
7. Texas Tech- The Red Raiders lost tight end/receiver Adam James to graduation in 2012 and will need to find a replacement immediately. Sophomore tight end Jace Amaro caught seven passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Amaro, a highly ranked tight end out of San Antonio, TX has the ability to be a big time tight end in 2012 and will need more touches to improve his numbers.
8. Oklahoma- There is not doubt that the loss of tight ends James Hanna and Trent Ratterree will hurt the Sooners next year, but Oklahoma still have young talent to put on the field. Junior tight end Austin Haywood caught six passes for 42 yards in 2011. Haywood will need to be the Sooners go to tight end next year and should be a big target for quarterback Landry Jones in 2012. The Sooners brought in four tight ends in their 2012 recruiting class including Laith Harlow (Tallahassee, FL), Brannon Green (Fort Scott, KS), Sam Grant (North Royalton, OH) and Taylor McNamara (San Diego, CA). Oklahoma hopes to get production out of at least one of these recruits next year.
9. Texas Christian- The Horned Frogs lost tight end Logan Brock to the NFL draft and will be missing a big part of their offense in 2012 as a result. Senior tight end Corey Fuller will replace Brock next year. Fuller had two receptions for 35 yards in 2011 and will be the Horned Frogs starting tight end in 2012. TCU also has incoming freshman tight end Griffin Gilbert that could see playing time if necessary.
10. West Virginia- The Mountaineers are the only Big 12 team that has no scholarship tight end that has experience. Redshirt freshman Cody Clay sat out last year and is familiar with the program, but has no playing time. Clay will probably be looked at as West Virginia's tight end option in 2012. Along with Clay, the Mountaineers have incoming freshman tight end Will Johnson (Osseo, MN) that could challenge for the position.