In the Big 12 Conference at least, it appears the days of the big, bulky, run-blocking tight ends are all but gone. Now, speed and athleticism are the primary descriptors for Big 12 tight ends. Looking over this year's group, they fit the bill perfectly, and they all still have the size to do the dirty work, too. Today, Huskeronline.com ranks the Big 12's tight ends as we think they stand heading into fall camp.
Not only is Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham the best tight end in the Big 12, he's arguably the best in college football. A first-team All-Everything last season, Gresham was a fixture in the Sooners' offense, hauling in 66 receptions for 950 yards and a team-best 14 touchdowns, the most by a tight end in team history. He needs just six more touchdown grabs to break the school's career record (31), and at the rate he's been going throughout his career, that should take maybe four or five games.
2. Mike McNeill, Nebraska, 6-4, 240, Jr.
There's little argument to the claim that Mike McNeill is not only Nebraska's best tight end, but its best receiver, period. With the receiving corps still trying to come together, McNeill will likely be counted on to serve as Zac Lee's primary target in the passing game this year, especially early on. Luckily, he's got the resume to back up that responsibility. Just look at his stat line from last season: 32 catches (most ever by an NU tight end), 442 yards six touchdowns (one shy of the school record).
3. Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M, 6-3, 224, Sr.
It took Jamie McCoy a few years to finally find the right position at Texas A&M, but it was definitely worth the wait. After moving from wide receiver to quarterback and then finally to tight end last year, McCoy emerged as one of the Big 12's best tight ends as he ended the year with 43 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns. His best stat of all, however, are the 30 first downs that resulted among his 43 grabs last year, which equals out to about 70 percent of his season total.
4. Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State, 6-6, 253, Sr.
If Kansas State's Jeron Mastrud is anything, it's consistent. For the past three years, Mastrud has finished in the Wildcats' top five reception leaders, and last season broke out with 38 catches for 436 yards and two touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how his role is affected with the return of head coach Bill Snyder, but like Nebraska's McNeill, Mastrud should only continue his consistent production as he's arguably the Wildcats' top returning all-around receiver.
5. Riar Geer, Colorado, 6-4, 250, Sr.
He may not have the greatest stats, but Colorado's Riar Geer has simply too much potential not to include among the Big 12's best tight ends. Geer looked like a budding star after leading the Buffaloes with 24 catches along with three touchdowns as a freshman in 2006, but his numbers have dropped the past two seasons. He's also had some off-the-field issues that may have contributed to his slowed production, but the fact of the matter is that is Geer can get his focus solely on football, he has the potential to be an all-conference player. This year might be the year he finally gets there, as CU had just three scholarship wide receivers on its roster during spring practice.