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Spring Position Preview - Tight Ends

Tight end might be the one position group at Washington this year that adds more than it subtracts. Gone are seniors Darrell Daniels and Jeff Lindquist, in their places come Jacob Kizer, Hunter Bryant and Cade Otton. But only Kizer will be here for spring football. 

That number is a bit misleading. Kizer should have been on campus last fall as a like-for-like replacement for the departing Joshua Perkins. But an injury meant delaying his enrollment was the best fit for him and the program. 

The fact remains that UW Tight Ends Coach Jordan Paopao is bringing in as many as are leaving, and that's how you keep a position group healthy. And this spring, as it should for every healthy group, has some established players, some newcomers, and those in limbo that need to utilize every opportunity they get this spring to show they are ready to be factors in the fall. 

The tight end group accounted for 13 percent of Washington's total catches (32) in 2016, and eight percent (4) of the Huskies' total receiving touchdowns.  

To add to the fact they were undervalued as receiving threats, 60 percent of the catches and 75 percent of the touchdowns they did account for are now gone with Daniels's graduation. Even though they have 25 total tight end starts coming back in 2016 as a unit, that unit has created very little to speak of so far: 19 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns. 

There's clearly a lot of work to be done on the receiving side of things. What is not in question is their abilities as blockers at the line of scrimmage and in space. The tight ends have made their reputation as blockers. Can they add the catching dimension to call themselves dual-threat? 

The spring will show not just hint at how UW Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith wants to use the tight ends, but how successful they will be in executing that plan. 

Tight End (by year)

Will Dissly (6-4, 269, Sr.)

David Ajamu (6-5, 251, Sr.)

Derek Hunter (6-2, 235, Sr.)*

Drew Sample (6-5, 259, Jr.)

Michael Neal (6-4, 246, So.)

Jacob Kizer (6-4, 241, Fr.)

Projected Spring Depth Chart

Drew Sample (6-5, 259, Jr.)

Will Dissly (6-4, 269, Sr.)

David Ajamu (6-5, 251, Sr.)

Michael Neal (6-4, 246, So.)

Jacob Kizer (6-4, 241, Fr.)

Derek Hunter (6-2, 235, Sr.)*

* = walk-on

Drew Sample (6-5, 259, Jr.)

Sample was one of the committed Boise State players that came to Seattle with Chris Petersen, and it was a good move for both. Sample, despite playing in the shadows of senior Daniels, still ended up a 2016 Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 pick, playing in all 14 games, catching nine passes for 106 yards. To get Honorable Mention with those numbers tells you something about Sample's impact as a blocker. There's no question he will be a target of Browning's more and more, and that starts this spring. 

Will Dissly (6-4, 269, Sr.)

Dissly's move from defensive line last year was a successful one, as he played in all 14 games and started five of them as an additional tight end. He caught four passes for 47 yards and even scored once, so he still remembers where the end zone is from his Bozeman, Montana days. I'd be surprised if he catches more than 10 passes in 2017, but that's never been his main function. He was moved over to add some beef to the edge, and while there were some growing pains (too many false starts), Dissly will be counted on to do a lot more this fall. Spring will be a time for him to really get the playbook locked down and refine the areas of his game that need sharpening. 

David Ajamu (6-5, 251, Sr.)

If the Huskies could get anything from David Ajamu this fall, it would be a strong end to what has been a Husky career marred with injury and 'what could have been'. Ever since getting hurt during warmups at USC two years ago, the Shelton native hasn't been able to catch much of a break. He played in 13 games last year, but his contributions thus far have been minimal compared to what was expected when he came to Montlake. The upside is that he's been relatively healthy for a year now, so there's no time like the present to push on and show the prodigious talent he's flashed at times but never fully been able to deliver. 

Michael Neal (6-4, 246, So.)

Neal finds himself in a similar place to Ajamu, stuck with the injury bug and unsure of which way his UW career is going to travel. After redshirting in 2015, his 2016 season was cut short by an apparent knee injury, so this spring is crucial for Neal to jump-start 2017 the right way. At this time we don't even know if he's 100 percent healthy, so he remains a mystery until we see him move around and make some plays. No time like the present for Mike to show that he has the ability to affect the tight end group like Darrell Daniels did. 

Jacob Kizer (6-4, 241, Fr.)

Kizer was supposed to enroll last fall, but a back injury put the Salem (Ore.) West Salem athlete on the greyshirt track. Now up to 250 pounds with a 100 percent healthy back, Kizer appears poised to become one of the blocking tight ends in the Sample/Dissly mold. Time will tell if he redshirts this season or if the UW coaches believe he can utilize the extra spring to prepare himself for the rigors of life in the Pac-12. This spring will go a long way toward determining Kizer's readiness. 

Derek Hunter (6-2, 235, Sr.)*

The lone walk-on, Hunter hasn't seen any game time in his two seasons. Hunter transferred to UW from Georgetown, where he played in 2013 and 2014. 

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Where does the tight end group stand heading into spring?

The group, despite the loss of two seniors, is in good shape in terms of numbers. They have enough guys to get the job done, and Sample and Dissly have the experience necessary to provide a solid 1-2 punch when it comes to the players at the top of the depth chart. 

But there's no question Paopao has his hands full in developing the next couple of players in the depth. Ajamu is ripe to bust out and have a great 2017 as long as he can stay healthy. Playing in 13 games last year, the senior has to contribute this season. He has the potential to be a tight end in the Perkins/Daniels mold, because he's always been able to run and move. He's the most likely to be that third tight end right now. Spring will show whether or not Ajamu is ready to take on the challenge. 

Neal is another one plagued with injury issues, and he needs to right the ship in a hurry if he wants to have the kind of Husky career he was hoping for. He was initially brought in to be that athletic, pass-catching tight end in Smith's system, and they are looking for that kind of player to emerge right now. How cool would it be if Neal exploded on to the scene? Depending on how well he has been able to overcome his injuries, spring should show us exactly where he's at in terms of making an impact in 2016. 

And then there's Kizer, who is the real wild card of the group, the unknown. Depending on how Ajamu and Neal take their turns this spring, Kizer may be counted on to play as a true freshman. Size-wise he's already there at 6-foot-4 and over 240 pounds. But how quickly can he pick up the playbook? We'll know soon enough.  


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