Hello again. We continue our look at the 2013 class by position group this week. We've taken a look at the running back and wide receiver groups previously, so its time to review the 2013 tight end landscape and our needs.
With the graduation of Anthony Miller and the likelihood that Spencer Ladner will not return to the team for the 2012 season, we have four scholarship tight ends on the roster. Coach Tedford has stated the staff's desire to utilize the tight end more heavily in the passing game. We were unable to do that much last year as the offensive line required a lot of help in pass protection. With the hope that the offensive line has progressed with an additional year under Coach M, we'll be relying heavily on sophomore Richard Rodgers, sophomore Jacob Wark, junior Spencer Hagan, and junior Harrison Wilfley, a late addition to the 2012 class from American River College. Hagan emerged as a pleasant surprise last season in an H-back type of role, and Wark will be counted on to provide support in the run-blocking department with his hand on the ground. Rodgers is the guy we've been hearing a lot about and who is expected to step in and show something special. Wilfley is a bit of an unknown, but he's a big athletic guy that the staff deemed worthy of a scholarship. We'll see how quickly he's able to contribute.
In the 2012 recruiting cycle, we elected to pass on Bullard's Ian Taubler in favor of waiting out our two highest profile targets in Christo Kourtzidis and Taylor McNamara...who we then whiffed on. McNamara to Oklahoma, Kourtzidis stuck with Florida State. Taubler stayed committed to UCLA, and Nate Iese, a big athlete from Sacramento who we were late to the party on, signed with the Bruins as well. Thus, Wilfley was the consolation prize. Time will tell if he pans out.
So what does that mean for tight end recruiting in 2013? Well, we need to land a couple. The staff has been pretty active in scouting and offering tight ends thus far, with a couple high profile guys coming off the table early. There are still some big fish out there, as well as some guys that are under the radar. Let's take a look. As a reminder, these are tight end prospects that are currently uncommitted. Highlights are linked on each guy's name.
Christian Morgan, TE Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, TX). This is a name that has come up frequently here, and with good reason. Morgan is one of the more complete tight ends in the country this year. He has the size and strength to play with his hand on the ground, but also the athleticism and hands to be split out wide. At 6'4/245, he has the body to play immediately. He's a very good run blocker, capable of driving defenders off the line. He also has terrific hand strength and copncentration...making tough catches in traffic and with hands in his face. I covet him. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's meant to be. While we've been in the conversation amongst a group of schools leading for Christian's services, he has yet to visit. At this juncture, a commitment to Baylor is more likley than a visit to Cal. If not the (Baylor) Bears, I'd say Ole Miss has a shot. Too bad as he's as ready to play as any of the guys we're after.
Josh McNeil, TE Hillside (Durham, NC). Cal offered McNeil back in early April, joining about 20 other programs. While he's only played one year of football, McNeil has the frame and athleticism to be special. At 6'5/240, he's suprisingly quick off the line and shows nice speed downfield. He uses his hands well rather than catching with his body. As you would expect from a guy just learning the game, his blocking and route running need work. That will come with time and teaching though. McNeil pared his copious list of teams down to twelve earlier this month, with Cal making the first cut. The release of a top 6 later this week will likely find Cal on the outside looking in. Longshot.
DeSean Smith, TE Barbe (Lake Charles, Louisiana). Cal is one of 16 offers on the table for DeSean Smith. He's terrific in the passing game, showing the ability to make plays in space as well as make tough catches. At 6'4/220, he does still need to add some muscle so he can be a bit more effective as a blocker. In-state LSU looks like the leader for Smith, but both Alabama and Florida are in it as well. I've seen no indication that Cal will factor into Smith's recruitment...so let's just move on.
Hunter Henry, TE Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, AR). I'm not 100% confident on the validity of the reported offer from Cal to Hunter Henry, but when you look at his current list it would not be a surprise. Sitting at over 20 offers, Henry is a hot commodity thanks to his great size (6'6/240), hands and speed. He's much more of a downfield receiving threat as of now, being split out wide at times. He has the frame, but still needs to add strength to be able to handle lining up off tackle and blocking. Once that element of his game come along, he'll be something else. Like Smith, we are not mentioned anywhere as a factor in Henry's recruitment. Sadly, Stanford could be.
Beau Sandland, TE Pierce CC (Woodland Hills, CA). Here's a Junior College guy whose stock is absolutely blowing up. Cal offered Beau Sandland three weeks ago. Since then, he's added offers from heavies like LSU, Florida, Miami, Oklahoma and is getting some serious interest from Texas. He sits at 17 offers as of now. Why all the fuss? Well, Sandland is 6'6/250 and can make plays. Guys with his size and athleticism don't come around very often. Considering he graduated in 2010 from Simi Valley receiving almost no interest from FBS schools, a couple years of maturation have made a big difference. Lots of programs are throwing their hats in the ring because Sandland could play/start NOW for a whole lot of teams. While only posting 20 receptions for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns last season for Pierce, Sandland's highlights show a guy that can make an immediate impact. He plans to graduate in December and will have three years to play two. This guy doesn't need a redshirt though. No serious indications have been made about what schools Sandland favors, but I have a feeling he'll look out of state. We'll see though.
John Mundt, TE Central Catholic (Modesto, CA). Cal offered Mundt last week after a nice performance at the NFTC Camp in Oakland. Mundt is a very athletic guy, as demonstrated by his 114.57 SPARQ rating, which was good enough for fourth overall at the Oakland camp. (For more info on the SPARQ rating, check out this link). In addition to Cal, Mundt already held offers from Colorado, Oregon State, Fresno State, Nevada, and San Diego State. He caught 17 balls for 314 yards and 5 touchdowns in his junior season for Central Catholic, and also registered 45 tackles and 7.5 sacks as a defensive end. At 6'4/235 with a frame that can add muscle, Mundt has good size and displayed the hands and athleticism at the Nike Camp that should see a lot more interest come his way. Cal entering the picture in Mundt's recruitment is very interesting. His highlights don't blow me away (inconsistent QB play doesn't help unfortunately), but he does have the ability and raw athleticism that can be cultivated into something special. He also is a physical guy, which really can't be taught. Love that. One to watch.
ON THE RADAR
Below are some tight end prospects that do not have an offer from Cal, but there has been interest expressed.
Trent Gow, TE Mansfield (Mansfield, TX). Trent Gow is a guy whose lack of early offers is likely indicative of two things. First, Mansfield is a run heavy offense so Gow has had limited opportunities to show off his hands. His 10 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns last season are not the kind of stats that jump off the page. Second, he's not yet at the ideal height that most programs covet in a tight end. Were Gow 6'4 or taller, he'd likely be sitting on at least 10 offers as of now. But despite these factors, schools like LSU, Nebraska, Iowa State, Colorado and Cal have been recruiting him. And Gow just picked up his first offer from Air Force last week. More will come. Why? Gow is tough, fast, and a solid run blocker. When he's had a chance to use them, he demonstrates soft hands too. I see him as an intriguing fit as an H-Back for Cal or possibly a fullback. I don't know if the offer to Mundt means Cal has totally cooled on Gow, but its possible. He's said that he hasn't heard from us in a bit, even though we just got a commitment from his Mansfield teammate Chad Whitener last week. He'll be a nice addition for some team as a very underrated prospect though. In a year where we really should look to take two tight ends, we could use him.
Ray Hudson, TE/ ATH Foothill (Pleasanton, CA). Hudson is another guy we've discussed here before, and one that I like a lot. Hudson's versatility is definitely a big plus to me. He was an all-EBAL performer last season for Foothill as a WR, but at 6'4/225, he projects as a TE at the next level. He also plays outside linebacker. As a tight end, he's fast enough to create matchup problems for most linebackers or be split out wide and outmuscle/outleap most defensive backs. Obviously he'll need to add a little weight in order to be more effective lined up off tackle, but he has a frame capable of doing so with ease, and without sacrificing too much speed or athleticism. Cal has been by Foothill to check him out and will likely continue to evaluate him. Currently Vanderbilt and Colorado are recruiting Hudson the hardest, though he has yet to secure any offers. I think we would leap into the lead for his services if we were to offer.
Jake Roh, TE/ATH Chaparral (Scottsdale, AZ). Roh is another prospect with intriguing versatility. Unlike Hudson, Roh doesn't yet possess the size of your typical tight end at 6'3/200, but he does bring some other things to the table. Playing primarily wideout for his Chaparral team, he recorded 49 catches for 922 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He also plays linebacker (like Hudson). With his speed and athleticism, Roh could be a candidate for more of a Spencer Hagan role, being utilized in mismatches when available. It's possible he'll continue to grow and could end up being 6'5 when its all said and done. Cal has been actively recruiting Roh and he's expressed an interest in visiting this summer. With offers from Oregon State, Duke and Arizona, along with interest from UCLA , Nebraska, and ASU, I expect Roh's recruitment to heat up over the summer. Honestly, I'm unsure where the staff likes him most so I've elected to include him here as a likely TE/H-Back, but he could potentially be a wide receiver at the next level too. Very good football player and prospect.
So there you have it. This isn't an all-encompassing list as more names are sure to pop up, but this is about the most comprehensive I could put together based on the data currently out there. Lost of versatile, athletic, big-bodied pass catchers...not many of whom we will actually get. Sad trombone.
This post may not provide much encouraging news at a position of need, and that's okay because it isn't meant to. This is merely a look at who some of the targets are, and what skills they bring to the table. The matter of whether Coach Genyk is doing an adequate recruiting job at the position is a discussion for another day (or in the comments!). To be fair, the issues we've had with our offensive line has forced the tight end position to become more of a an additional offensive lineman than a receiving threat in the last couple years. That's not real sexy to recruits. I'm hopeful that an improved line and the staff's insistence that they want to use the tight end more in the passing game will help with recruiting. We'll see once the season starts though.
What do you guys think? I'd sure like to know. Sharing is caring.