Sean Dowling switched from the offensive line to tight end midway through his sophomore season. He has yet to make a catch because he's been primarily used as a blocking tight end. He's seen action in 22 games during his Vandy career including in 10 games last season as a TE or on special teams. His first career start came at Ole Miss in 2015. A player that has played varsity football since his freshman year in high school, Dowling was a highly regarded prospect choosing Vandy over teams like Arizona, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oregon, and UCLA.
Nathan Marcus is Vanderbilt's returning tight end career reception leader with 10 catches. After being redshirted in his first season, Marcus tallied six receptions in his redshirt freshman season with scoring catches against Old Dominion and Missouri. Last season his reception total dropped to four. The Illinois native is more of a receiving tight end. With the graduation of Steven Scheu look for his role to possibly increase in 2016.
A wide receiver in high school, DeAndre Woods has gained over 35 pounds since coming to Vanderbilt. If he is fully recovered from an injury he suffered early in the 2015 season, he'll likely be Vanderbilt's top all-around tight end. He's got great hands and the strength and athleticism to make blocks. He was the top tight end receiver following the Austin Peay game, a game in which he was injured, with seven receptions. Woods likely would have finished the season as VU's top receiving tight end had he not been injured.
Sam Dobbs is another tight end that excels at catching the ball. Last season he caught only one pass, at Florida, in Vandy's last-ditch effort to overcome the late UF field goal that gave the Gators the lead, and ultimately the win. Dobbs is a player with good hands. He caught nearly 100 passes in his last two seasons of high school ball. He may need to bulk up some and add strength in order to get more playing time.
Jared Pinkney is another versatile tight end who can both make catches and block well. Pinkney was set to play last season as a freshman but, unfortunately, he was injured in the first game against Western Kentucky. The fact that he was playing in the first game as a true freshman shows his skillset. A number of power conference programs recognized Pinkney's ability in high school including Florida, Nebraska, Miami (Fla.), Missouri and Purdue in addition to Vandy. If Pinkney can stay healthy he can be one of the Commodores' top receivers in 2016.
Turner Cockrell is the newest addition to the Vanderbilt tight end corps. He played he played at Allatoona high school (Ga.) in a mostly running offense. The highlight of his career was a 93-yard scoring reception in the Georgia state playoff semi-finals. Out of high school, Cockrell had offers from teams like East Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Air Force to name a few. Cockrell will likely be redshirted in 2016 in order to learn the offense and get stronger but you never know.
PROJECTED STARTER AT TIGHT END
Overall, this Vanderbilt tight ends group looks talented but lacks the returning veteran player we've had in the past with guys like Steven Scheu or Brandon Barden. However, the Dores have a good group of players that have decent experience and solid talent. Look for Pinkney and Woods to be the reception leaders. Dowling will be the first out for multi-tight end packages when extra blockers are needed. Someday Vandy might surprise an opponent by throwing to him. Dobbs and Marcus should also get a decent amount of playing time.