As Nebraska moves into the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today we look at the tight end position in the Big Ten heading into 2011.
1. Kyler Reed, Nebraska, 6-3, 230, Jr.
There may not be a tight end more important to his team's passing offense than junior Kyler Reed is to Nebraska's. The versatile Reed, who is just as effective split out wide as he is on the line, set a tight end school record for touchdown catches in a season with eight and finished third on the team with 22 receptions for 395 yards, good for a team-leading average of 18.0 yards per catch. The options with Reed are seemingly endless in Tim Beck's new offense, so expect those numbers to be just as good if not better this season.
2. Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern, 6-3, 235, Sr.
Like Reed, Northwestern senior Drake Dunsmore brings a unique combination of size and speed to the Wildcats' offense. In fact, Northwestern even created a new position name to better describe Dunsmore's role in the offense - the Superback. Dunsmore hauled in 40 catches for 381 yards and five touchdowns last season, and he's already been named to the preseason John Mackey Award Watch List.
3. Eric Lair, Minnesota, 6-3, 239, Sr.
Minnesota senior Eric Lair came out of his shell last season, as he set career highs in receptions (39), receiving yards (526) and touchdown catches (2). Despite his solid numbers a year ago, Gopher fans are expecting even more from Lair this season under new head coach Jerry Kill. Lair's versatility could make him one of the centerpieces of Kill's aggressive offensive scheme.
4. Ted Bolser, Indiana, 6-6, 240, So.
Also like Reed, Indiana's Ted Bolser showed a knack of making big plays, as he caught 27 passes for 407 yards with five touchdowns and an average of 15.1 yards per catch. Those numbers were good enough to earn him Freshman All-American honors, and his five touchdowns set an Indiana tight end record and were the most by any freshman tight end in the country last year. Under new Hooiser head coach Kevin Wilson, who produced some pretty good tight ends as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Bolser should only continue to improve.
5. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State, 6-5, 245, Jr.
There's not a lot going right in Columbus, Ohio, at the moment, but junior tight end Jake Stoneburner is at least one player Buckeye fans can be excited about this season. With all of the roster issues Ohio State will have to deal with early on, Stoneburner could become the primary focus of the passing game with no returning experience on the field at receiver until the suspended DeVier Posey. After ranking fourth on the team with 21 catches for 222 yards last season, Stoneburner has proven capable of handling that responsibility.