Gone are the days of the big, lumbering tight ends used primarily as run blockers and occasional surprise receivers. In the Big 12 Conference today, the position is comprised of some of the most athletic and versatile players on the field. Here is Huskeronline.com's complete ranking list of the tight end position heading into this fall.
Nebraska's Mike McNeill may not exactly qualify as a true tight end anymore since moving to his new "adjuster" position, but the way he'll be used in the Huskers' offense is good enough in our book. Though he'll be lining up out wide or in the slot as a receiver most of the time, he'll also be back on the line of scrimmage and in the backfield as an H-back in certain packages. Because of the wide variety of ways he's going to be used in the passing game, there's absolutely no reason he shouldn't see a dramatic increase to the 28 receptions for 259 yards and four touchdowns he put up last season.
2. Andrew Jones, Missouri, 6-5, 235, Jr.
A shoulder injury kept Missouri's Andrew Jones from really doing much of anything last season, but after successful off-season surgery, the Tigers are counting on him being the next big time tight end in line. Despite playing the bulk of the year with a bad shoulder, Jones still started eight games. Rivals.com had Jones listed as the No. 2 player in Missouri during his senior year of high school, and as long as he can return to fall camp 100-percent healthy, there's no reason he can't emerge as one of MU's top receivers.
3. Ryan Deehan, Colorado, 6-5, 245, Jr.
Colorado's Ryan Deehan is another player who has big expectations coming into this season despite not having much to show in the way of statistics. As the No. 2 tight end behind Riar Geer - CU's No. 3 receiver last year - Deehan only caught 10 passes for 91 yards as a sophomore. However, with the starting spot now his to lose, the Buffaloes are hoping he can live up to the hype he had coming in as a freshman, where Rivals listed him as the No. 9 tight end prospect in the country.
4. Barrett Matthews, Texas, 6-2, 235, So.
Though he served primarily as a blocker last season, Texas's Barrett Matthews possesses a similar skill set to that of McNeill in that he's far more dangerous as a receiver in space. Because of his smaller stature, he'll likely be used just as much as an H-back as he will on the line of scrimmage. That means the Longhorns will be able to mix him into the passing game in a number of different ways, which should allow him to cause some serious match-up issues for opposing linebackers.
5. Tim Biere, Kansas, 6-4, 260, Jr.
At 6-4, 260, Kansas's Tim Biere has the build of the more traditional tight end. His career numbers also put him in that category, as he has just 20 receptions despite seeing playing time since he was a true freshman. However, this might be the year where he finally gets to show that he's more than just an extra offensive lineman. Biere actually possesses some nice skills as a receiver, and with the Jayhawks breaking in a new starting quarterback this season, he could put up some solid numbers as a safety net in the passing game.