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Roundtables: Who will be the breakout tight end of 2018?

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It finally looks like the Bears are ready to weaponize the tight end again, so we decided to argue about who will be the breakout star.

Tony Gonzalez
Let us embody the spirit of the greatest tight end to step on the field.

Tight Ends look to be an integral part of the offense this season. Whom do you see exploding as the go-to TE?

Joshua.Morgan: I have my money on McCallan Castles. Ray Hudson is fine, sure, but in my opinion Castles was a total steal of a recruit and will shine if given the proper playing time, even as a freshman. He has the size and athleticism to be a star receiver at the tight end position, and I think he is more than talented enough right now to avoid a redshirt and play his way into some serious time early on.

California v Arizona
Ray Hudson should have a golden year for us and that line was terrible.

Piotr Le: Ray Hudson remains my favorite skill-player on the offense. He has had good moments in consecutive camps. He may not have the athletic upside of Castles, but he has had time to learn and play in a D-I level.

Leland Wong: We all love Ray Hudson for his dedication—being the only player to have interacted with Jeff Tedford, Sonny Dykes, and Justin Wilcox as head coaches of Cal—but I think grad-transfer Ian Bunting will be the home run. (Rimshot.) Bunting has four inches and ten pounds on Hudson, making him that much more of a mismatch for poor DBs who have to cover him and that much more of a smasher in run blocking. In terms of collegiate play experience, the two actually have stunningly similar stats (34 games and 8 starts for Bunting vs. 34 games and 9 starts for Hudson), but Bunting has more collegiate snaps as a true tight end than Hudson, whose 34 games came in the tight end–free Bear Raid system. Although Hudson’s time in the Bear Raid were occasionally under the name of “tight end”, those players effectively served as inside receivers. Conversely (and most painfully), Bunting has four years of being coached by staffs whose offenses are designed to incorporate tight ends—including the scourge of humanity and mastermind of the Stanfurd tight end bulldozer, Jim Harbaugh. Bunting just has more experience being coached at this position and playing at this size than Hudson.

Mike Foiles: This will be Ray Hudson’s year. It is his sixth year in the program and he has had even more time re-acclimating himself to the TE position at which he was originally recruited. He looked like a prime candidate to break out last season before the season-ending injury and he is back and looking as good as ever. Bunting, Gavin Reinwald, and Castles will certainly see the field plenty, but Hudson is the most experienced and versatile as a blocker and receiver.

Capitol One Orange Bowl - Florida State v Michigan
Bunting goes airborne.
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Alex Ghenis: I’m going to have to get back to this one after attending one of the practices in-person (either Saturday 8/11 or 8/18). My instincts, though, tell me that Ian Bunting is going to be the more unique, go-to TE than Hudson will, for example in 3rd-and-short situations over the middle. 6’7” and 255 pounds is just too much of a mismatch against most linebackers to not utilize as a major part of the offense. Count us as lucky to have Bunting, Hudson and Castles on roster, though—along with some more lightly-recruited back-ups who still got playing time near the end of last year.

Beau Baldwin has praised the versatility of the TEs, which has allowed for them to get creative in how to use them—attached or in the slot. Where would you like to see our TEs utilized the most?

Joshua.Morgan: I think the key is in fact the versatility. There is not one way I would like to see them utilized more than another, as the way I would like to see them utilized is by showing off that versatility. Use them as blockers, throw them in the slot... it may be just from deprivation in the Dykes era, but I am definitely excited to see what the position has in store for us this season.

Piotr Le: My go-to concept is the way the Patriots, Chiefs, and Washington teams use TEs. Gronk/Kelce/Reed have been used as run blockers out of the line, pass catchers from the line, and then split outside or in the slot all on the same drive—and especially in no-huddle situations. The Chiefs used Kelce in those ways in no-huddle situations where they let Alex Smith use Kelce all across the field especially having him aligned on the side as Tyreeke Hill posed match-up problems for the defense since the safety on that side often faced an impossible choice in having to either help with Kelce or Hill.

Arizona v California
Apparently we don’t have the rights to any images of Rob Gronkowski while he played at Arizona, but here’s his brother Chris (#37)—a linebacker for Arizona—at Memorial Stadium in 2009. I thought that was better than a random picture of Gronk with the Pats. (Although there was a pic of Gronk and Vereen that I was tempted by.)
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

My go-to is being able to force defenses to come out in their base packages with four DBs and then find a way to match-up a TE with a slow-footed LB or force a defense that’s in dime to now defend a run with the TE as an in-line blocker. Depending on the opponent we can emphasize the nature of how we use the TEs.

Mike Foiles: I am interested to finally see us be able to line up with in-line TEs who are versatile enough to pave holes in the running games and be threats to catch passes. Last year, it was either one or the other. Malik McMorris (FB) had to play a lot of TE and is an incredible blocker, but he is not a guy who can get open if someone covers him. Reinwald had solid receiving ability, but was too small as a true freshman to be a threat as a blocker on the line. The additions to this unit will enable us to run power sets versatile enough to be threatening in both the run and the pass.

NCAA Football: Arizona at California
Beware the McMorris.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Ghenis: Not exactly sure where I’d like to see them “utilized the most”, but I certainly have a few types of plays in mind that would be fun to see how the TE position is utilized. For example, two TEs (one on either side of the OL) with Malik and Laird in the backfield and then one TE and adjacent OT do pull-blocks ahead of Malik, with all blockers leading the way for a hand-off to Patrick Laird. Basically get eight of the 11 guys on offense leading the way for our best RB to make some jukes inside. If we can start to hone that part of the playbook, it’ll give us a great opportunity to really pound the rock… and also get defenders to bite inside and open up room for passes over the middle or deep outside. Come to think of it, I just want to see the tight ends used in as many ways as possible because it will make opposing defenses be even less sure of what we are going to throw at them and then allow our offense to take advantage of confusion and misdirection to move the ball downfield that much more reliably.

Poll

Who do you predict will be Cal’s biggest threat at tight end in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Ray Hudson
    (82 votes)
  • 51%
    Ian Bunting
    (118 votes)
  • 12%
    McCallan Castles
    (28 votes)
  • 1%
    Another player
    (3 votes)
231 votes total Vote Now