Texas Tech's outgoing junior tight end, Jace Amaro, leaves the program as one of its most talked about players leading up to the NFL Draft.
Amaro's productivity in his three seasons in Lubbock was among the brighter spots in a transitive era in Texas Tech football history.
Under the leadership of Tommy Tuberville, Amaro joined the Red Raiders in 2011 and left a lasting impact on the football program. Even with the change in leadership to Kliff Kingsbury in 2013, Amaro continued his progress and solidified his place in program history as just the fifth Red Raider ever to be awarded unanimous All-American honors.
Leaving early, especially on a high note – a 37-23 Red Raider upset of No. 14 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30 – ices the cake on a sometimes wobbly, always exciting college career for Jace Amaro.
Heralded as a top tight end
"I first saw Jace Amaro at a Texas 7-on-7 event," says Greg Powers, a Scout.com national recruiting analyst in charge of the Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, Midlands area. "He was an athletic freak…he had an NFL body."
In addition, Powers says that Scout.com was the first publication to rank Amaro in their Top 100 boards, labeling him as a "program-changer". Especially notable is the fact that, in most recruiting rankings, tight ends do not feature at such a high level.
In his senior season at MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Amaro tallied 56 receptions for 881 yards and 11 touchdowns. Scouts were impressed with his sure-handedness ("he was like a bigger receiver," Powers says), his athleticism, and his skills in route-running.
A four-star recruit, Amaro committed to Texas Tech and joined the program in the fall of 2011.
Here is a look at some of his high school highlights:
‘A program changer'
Amaro did little in his freshman year, totaling 57 yards and two touchdowns for a struggling Red Raiders team. But in 2012, he began his climb towards being an elite collegiate tight end.
Six games in – prior to a season-ending injury during Tech's upset win over West Virginia – Amaro had grown into his role as an offensive threat on a surging Red Raider team, catching 23 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He returned for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, making headlines with his antics (which included punching a Minnesota player) as Texas Tech defeated the Gophers to salvage a sluggish 8-5 season.
A regime change in 2013 saw Red Raider legend and former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury take the reins in Lubbock, bringing back a more pass-friendly offense which figured to get Amaro more touches in games.
Despite a musical chairs of quarterbacks (Davis Webb? Baker Mayfield? … Michael Brewer?) and the challenges that such instability would place on a receiving corps, Amaro broke out and lived up to his potential. He set a school record for tight ends with 106 receptions and set a new NCAA single-season standard with 1,352 yards en route to unanimous first team All-Big 12 and All-American honors.
"I really think he played up to – and beyond his ranking," Powers says of Amaro. "We thought he would be an all-conference player; he became an all-conference player. He's the best tight end in college football, regardless of the awards or rankings."
Here is a look at some of his Texas Tech highlights from 2013:
So, where could he land?
The trickiest part of mock draft rankings is that there aren't many in January and the NFL playoffs – determinant in which teams will draft from 21 to 32 – have only begun, which is subject to change depending on playoff position. (As of Monday, four of those positions have been set.) Then there's still the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, where one would think Amaro will probably wow those on hand.
Of the available mock drafts, CBS Sports' draft experts have placed Amaro anywhere from 17th overall to the second round. Yahoo Sports places Amaro at 21st, where the Green Bay Packers are slated.
Fans should be warned that Amaro might not be the first tight end selected; North Carolina's Eric Ebron has been receiving the most attention at the position from national sources, and accordingly is ranked higher. Ebron's statistics are lower (55 receptions, 895 yards), but projects to be a better prospect in the pros.
Nevertheless, Amaro is a sure-handed, athletic tight end who has been favorably compared to Rob Gronkowski and Jermichael Finley. His measurements (6-5, 260 pounds) match those of tight ends such as Gronkowski, especially in an era where the tight end has become more of an offensive threat.
Amaro has a special combination of size, skill, and natural ability that will lead to a productive NFL career. Despite the favor towards Ebron in this draft, Amaro has the look to be the better pro at his position. Considering that the scouts have him projected in the 20s, Amaro should be able to showcase his talent for a team that made the NFL postseason this season.
To me, he will be a late first-round selection, and would be a great fit on the Jets (17), Packers (21), Chiefs (proj. 24), 49ers (proj. 29), or Panthers (proj. 30). I would be highly surprised if he didn't get his name called on the first night of the NFL Draft.
Amaro's sure-handedness for Texas Tech – a security blanket so big that even Linus would have appreciated it – will translate well into the NFL.
With more tight end prospects adapting more of an offensive game to evolve into the all-around threats they are today, expect Amaro to succeed with his skill set.
Amaro's Path to the NFL
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