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Rutgers Football 2017 Position Preview: Tight Ends

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This could be very interesting

Illinois v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Offense puts fans in the stands and defense wins championships.

Defensive players are tough, nasty, mean.

Uhh, Bob, this is about an offensive position, you say.

True. The offensive line is where it all starts; they’re the closest ones in Jerry Kill’s room to defenders in mentality. QBs are pretty boys, wideouts are showy, running backs sign autographs. But tight ends....they work for a living.

Rutgers has had its share of quality tight ends starting with the recently recognized Marco Battaglia, LJ Smith, Clark Harris, Tim Wright, who signed with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday, and Andrew Baker. And in Bob's world, tight ends are the best thing since sliced bread and the pop top beer can. Jets' Mickey Shuler, Giants' Mark Bavaro. Yeah, good stuff.

This year Rutgers has an interesting cadre of tight ends and OC Jerry Kill has indicated he wants to use them. “Tight ends will be a part of the offense. You look at the NFL, you look at any level, tight ends and backs are catching a lot of footballs.”

Losses from 2016

There were three tight ends on the 2016 squad. They accounted for 16 catches and 91 yards. All season. Those statistics caused Kill to comment when he met the press, “Our tight ends coach Vince [Okruch] said they caught more balls yesterday (in practice) than they did all last season.”

  • Nick Arcidiacono: 10 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD
  • George Behr: no catches
  • Matt Flanagan: 6 catches, 29 yards, 0 TD

There were 159 passes caught last season by the entire team. To have a receiving group only account for 16 is ludicrous.

But, the year before, it wasn’t a whole lot better/different. Arcidiacono only caught 12 passes in 2015 and Flanagan caught 11, while John Tsimis caught just two. Although Flanagan did have three touchdowns, the only ones scored by tight ends in 2015. The tight end has been a lost player the last few years. That is supposed to change.

Returners for 2017

No one on this list caught a pass in 2016. That says a lot about the “offense” run by Drew Mehringer. That should change with the new Kill outlook.

At the same time, no one on this list has played a down of offense for Rutgers, either. They have talent, in some cases very diverse in their abilities. But how they will fit into an offense that wants to use the tight end extensively is anyone’s guess. As Chris Ash said after week one, “It’s a position by committee. It’s not that one guy is going to start. Based on personnel grouping, based on the situation, they all have different skill sets. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all starters based on the personnel grouping and the situation.”

Myles Nash 6'5" 257 lbs || Redshirt Senior || Sicklerville, N.J. || Timber Creek

Didn’t know that Nash was a tight end? He wasn’t. He played defense, 2016 being the first time he played in all 12 games. A highly rated defender coming out of high school, the transition to the other side of the ball as a senior should be fun to watch. He certainly has the size to compete. He was looked at briefly back on defense when Tyreek Maddox-Williams was lost for the season, but then moved back to the O for good.

Nakia Griffin-Stewart 6'5" 255 lbs || Redshirt Sophomore || Tenafly, N.J. || Tenafly

After redshirting as freshman, Nakia-Griffin played in one game in 2016 on special teams. In high school, he played both ways; like Nash, he seemed to be recognized more on defense, making First Team All-Group III on defense. He was certainly looked at as a receiver, though, rated the No. 1 tight end in New Jersey and No. 16 prospect in the state overall by Scout and ranked No. 22 tight end nationally and No. 16 player in the state by Rivals.

Jerome Washington 6'4" 258 lbs || Junior || Elizabeth, N.J. || Stony Brook School (N.Y.) Miami (Fla.)

Washington started his college career playing for a club team, Gattaca, while enrolled at Mercer County College. He spent one year at Miami playing special teams before transferring to Rutgers, sitting out last season per transfer rules.

Newcomer

Travis Vokolek 6'6" 235 lbs || Springfield, Mo. || Kickapoo

Here’s a factoid: Travis caught more balls and had more yards and had more touchdowns in his senior season than the entire tight end corps at Rutgers had that same year. The three-star recruit was the 11th best prospect in Missouri. He drew offers from Minnesota and Nebraska in the conference, as well as from Kansas State and Army.

Bottom Line

Jerry Kill and TE Coach Vince Okruch want the position to be an integral part of the offense. Me, too! But once out of high school, all of these players have yet to see a play from the position. The talent is there, the will is there. Let’s hope the performance follows.

Previous Positional Previews:

Wide Receivers

Defensive Line