Mid-Spring Look: Tight End

Will an overabundance of bodies translate into improved success at tight end?

The Candidates: Ahmard Howard, senior; Blaine Irby, senior; D.J. Grant, junior; Barrett Matthews, junior; Trey Graham, sophomore; Dominique Jones, sophomore; Darius Terrell, redshirt freshman; M.J. McFarland, freshman.

Returning Starters: Matthews

What It Looks Like: The Longhorns are loaded with players at the tight end position, but not necessarily answers. Irby started three games in 2008, but has missed the last two seasons with a knee injury. And most of the other tight ends were poorly utilized a year ago, meaning that, for a group with plenty of returning experience, it's hard to really tell what Texas has at the position. Matthews was thought to be a hot commodity, a tight end with former 10.6-second speed in the 100-meter dash. But he averaged just 4.7 yards per catch over 10 snags a year ago. Jones caught two passes, one of which was a touchdown. And that's it for returning catches from a year ago. But Texas does get back Irby, Grant and Graham from injury, and adds receiving threats Terrell, who redshirted a year ago, and McFarland, who enrolled early. The blocking from the position has to get better from last year, as does the overall play. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin utilized several multiple tight end looks when calling plays at Boise State. Texas certainly has the bodies for it, but do the Longhorns have the talent?

Ideal Situation: Texas finds three reliable tight ends. In the absence of versatility — there isn't necessarily a "complete package" tight end on roster — the Longhorns should strive to find at least one tight end who can stretch the field down the seams and another who can block in-line. The third could be either/or.

What We Would Like To See: Of course, we'd love to see Irby regain his starting role, but it's yet unclear how possible that scenario is. When he was healthy, Irby was a good receiver who once caught seven passes in a game, and who had two touchdown catches over his three starts. Jones gave the Longhorns a little bit of anything, and he's a potential player after switching from defensive end. And Longhorn coach Mack Brown praised Grant for his blocking, something missing from last year's roster. It would be nice to redshirt McFarland, though he displays high potential as a receiver, and if they need that, it makes sense to trot him out. A grouping of Irby, Grant and Jones makes sense, with players like Howard (blocking) and Matthews or Terrell (receiving) rotating through to fill their purposes.

What Will Probably Happen: Who knows? This is one of the biggest mystery positions just based on the sheer number of players competing for open spots and the fact that not everybody is going full-bore at practice yet. One thing is likely to happen though: Texas will probably use more multiple tight end positions than a year ago, and the Longhorns will probably get better play from the position than they did last season.


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