Preseason position reviews: Tight end

Tight end is a bit difficult to evaluate because of a couple of Pac-12 teams -- namely UCLA and Washington State -- don't post the position on their depth charts anymore. Only the Bruins and Cougars actually have two guys -- Joseph Fauria and Andrei Lintz -- who are pretty darn good tight ends. If only they played it. And it should be no surprise that teams that didn't really use a tight end last year -- Arizona and Arizona State -- are at the bottom here.

So here goes nothing.

Great shape

Stanford: Difficult to distinguish between these top three, who surely are thrilled with their situations at TE. Even though the Cardinal lost Coby Fleener -- first-team All-Pac-12 -- to the NFL, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are as good and diversely skilled a combo as there is in the nation. They essentially split 689 yards and 10 TDs last year. And what put Stanford at the top is 6-foor-4, 242-pound Ryan Hewitt, a fullback who moonlights as a tight end -- see 34 receptions and five TDs in 2011.

Washington: Austin Seferian-Jenkins was a touted recruit who lived up to the hype, catching 41 passes for 538 yards -- 13.1 yards per catch -- and six TDs last year. He seems headed for All-America honors and a nice spot in the NFL draft. Sophomore backup Michael Hartvigson didn't make as much of an impact last year as some thought he would, but he's solid. Evan Hudson is a good blocker for three tight end sets.

USC: The Trojans are stacked here, though the TEs are overshadowed by the receivers. The versatile Rhett Ellison is gone, but Randell Telfer and Xavier Grimble combined for 41 receptions and nine TDs in 2011. There's also young talent behind them based on strong recruiting.

Good shape

Utah: Dallin Rogers is a good player that a lot of Pac-12 fans don't know about because he blew out his knee last year after six games. Even with that, he finished third on the Utes with 22 receptions for 160 yards and two TDs. The Utes are adopting an H-back this year, which will be Rogers' spot. Jake Murphy is No. 1 at tight end. He caught five passes for 64 yards last year.

Oregon: His name was David Paulson, but the Pac-12 blog's go-to postgame interview is gone, which vexes me. His name is Colt Lyerla, and he's a freakish athlete who made a number of big plays last year, converting his seven receptions to five TDs and 147 yards -- 21 yards per catch. But things are iffy thereafter, with true freshman Evan Baylis, who was on hand for spring practices, a leading candidate for the No. 2 spot.

UCLA: We realize the Bruins don't actually have a TE position on the depth chart, but they do have a "Y" receiver, which is where 6-foot-7, 258-pound Joseph Fauria is listed and he's really good. Caught 39 passes for 481 yards with six TDs in 2011.

California: Spencer Hagan -- 12 catches in 2011 -- and Jacob Wark are solid, but sophomore Richard Rodgers was one of the stars of spring practices and tops the fall depth chart.

Oregon State: Teams that use an H-back and tight end get a bump in these rankings just because of warm bodies. The Beavers lose Joe Halahuni (H-back), but Colby Prince, who caught 12 passes in 2011, is back. The depth is unproven but promising, including raves this spring over true freshman Caleb Smith.

We'll see

Washington State: Andrei Lintz was one of the Cougs stars this spring but he's no longer a tight end. His backup last year, Aaron Dunn, opted to transfer.

Colorado: Ryan Deehan is gone, and DaVaughn Thornton was moved to receiver. Nick Kasa, a converted defensive end, had a nice spring but the Buffaloes' leading returning TE caught one pass last year. Kyle Slavin can catch and Scott Fernandez, a converted O-lineman, can block. You know former Buffs TE Jon Embree really, really wants this position to get better.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are going from no TE to a TE and an H-back, but none of the players on the post-spring depth chart at those positions caught a pass last year. Darwin Rogers, a JC transfer, and Max Smith are one-two at TE and Chris Coyle and Rogers are one-two at H-back. The plan is to restore the Sun Devils' strong TE tradition -- Zach Miller, Todd Heap -- but that might not happen in 2012.

Arizona: Drew Robinson had two catches last year. Jack Baucus moved to OT. Michael Cooper was a special-teams guy in 2011. Keoni Bush-Loo was the only TE signed this winter. Will the position make a comeback under Rich Rodriguez as the offense transitions from a spread to a spread-option?

You can see previous previews here:


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