Recently, our colleagues at the Big Ten blog determined the five best players at each position in the history of their conference. We thought it was interesting, so we're following suit.
A couple of notes: We'll be basing these lists on the college careers of the players, not on how they fared in the NFL. And with apologies to LaDainian Tomlinson and Pat White, only players who wore Big 12 logos at the time they played -- and only the seasons they played while part of the Big 12 -- were considered to keep this consistent.
Our rankings continue today with the Big 12’s best-ever tight ends:
1. Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08): Do people remember how good Coffman was? Gary Pinkel did a masterful job of utilizing his tight ends in his spread system, and nobody played that role better than Coffman. He won the John Mackey Award and consensus All-America honors in 2008 after recording 90 catches for 987 yards and 10 TDs. He put up 500-plus receiving yards in each of his other three seasons and caught at least one pass in 45 consecutive games. And by the time he was finished, Coffman set new Missouri school records for career catches (247) and TD catches (30), too.
2. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma (2006-08): From a talent standpoint, Gresham is probably the best tight end the Big 12 has ever seen. He was a terror at 6-foot-6 and nearly 260 pounds, and he racked up a combined 25 touchdown catches as a sophomore and junior. In the same year the Mackey Award went to Coffman, Gresham put up 950 yards and 14 TDs on just 66 catches. Unfortunately, a preseason knee injury forced him to miss the entire 2009 season and then he went pro. Gresham needed only seven more TD catches to break the NCAA career record for tight ends.
3. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (2011-13): Amaro found a perfect fit as the over-the-middle threat in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense in 2013 and put together a season so dominant that he had to be high on this list. He caught 106 passes for 1,352 yards, picked up first downs on two-thirds of his catches and scored seven TDs as a junior before entering the NFL draft. Amaro caught eight or more passes in 10 of his 13 games that year. There’s no good reason why the All-American didn’t win the Mackey Award for that performance.
4. Martin Rucker, Missouri (2004-07): Yep, the Coffman-Rucker duo was a pretty special one. Rucker caught 203 passes and 18 touchdowns during his four seasons in Pinkel’s offense and raised his game as a senior, earning All-America honors after producing 84 receptions for 834 yards and eight scores. Rucker was the nation’s leading pass-catching tight end that year and is still ranks No. 2 at Mizzou in career receptions.
5. Daniel Graham, Colorado (1998-01): The final spot came down to Graham or Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew. They put up rather similar numbers, but Graham takes this spot because he did win the Mackey Award in 2001. The All-American led the Buffaloes in receiving that year (51 catches, 753 yards, six TDs) and was the team MVP of a squad that won a Big 12 championship and went to the Fiesta Bowl.