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The 2019 Big Ten Position Breakdowns: Tight Ends

So many tight ends in this article. Also, everyone’s least favorite chores!

Jake Ferguson (TE-Wisconsin) catches pass over the middle against Northwestern

Growing up, whenever football was on, my mom would always snicker/chuckle/giggle at two things: “tight end” and any mention of “penetration” by the defense. We’re here to talk about the former; if you want to discuss the latter, well, the Internet is a biiiiiiiig set of giant tubes. I’m sure the discussion you’re looking for is out there.

Tight ends will be an interesting position to watch in the Big Ten this year. Iowa loses two tight ends who, between them, made up 4/6ths of the All Big Ten teams last year. Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins is the only returning tight end to make an All Big Ten team last year (3rd - media), although several others, including Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth and Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, received honorable mentions. Given Iowa’s recent TE success, it might not surprise you that the OTE writers are high on one of Iowa’s soon-to-be-starting tight ends.

To waste all your time, and plenty of mine, and to add more words into the digital universe, I’ll be discussing the top 5 guys in a bit more detail, and I’ll be doing a mini OTE Power Poll as we go! My poll theme is “These are the worst chores, god they’re awful.” You can use the comments to tell us why your personal “worst chores” list is wrong and different than mine.

#1 - Pat Freiermuth - Penn State Nittany Lions

Pat Freiermuth received Honorable Mention on both All Big Ten teams last season. Freiermuth had a solid statistical season, scoring 8 TDs on just 26 total receptions and averaging 14+ yards per reception as a true freshman. OTE’er dbl5030 adds: “Freiermuth was 1st among TEs and T-5th overall for TD catches with 8. Averaged 14.2 ypc. And unlike Gesicki, is actually good at blocking.”

As a Wisconsin fan, I was surprised to learn that teams are allowed to have “receiving-first” tight end. He should see a dramatically increased role now that Gesicki is gone, that one receiver who seemingly only caught impossible catches is gone (right?), and Trace McSorely is gone. Hopefully, for whatever Penn State running back I probably didn’t discuss last week, Freiermuth continues to be a B1G-worthy blocker.

Penn State should have a solid TE corps overall. OTE’er K_Sull explains: “TE2 RS Sr Nick Bowers has had a really strong spring and true freshman Brenden Strange has jumped ahead of Kuntz on the depth chart. TE is going from being an unknown heading into 2018 to being a position of strength in 2019. Quick turnaround.” I, for one, hope Penn State’s TE group turns out to be terrible and so does the whole team, but the experts make that seem unlikely.

And now for the chore: Ironing. Ironing clothes is the WORST. Iron cords are way too short. You have to plug in the iron before you can start even doing the chore, meaning that ironing comes with its very own pre-chore. Then, as someone who mostly irons men’s dress shirts, you have to iron the whole thing and actually be careful because if there’s a tiny fold when you start ironing, you know that damn fold is getting ironed into the shirt, making it 100 times worse to iron. Finally, if you even remotely care about consistency of appearance, it takes for effing ever to make sure there aren’t creases, you get every inch ironed, etc... Oh, and you have to pour distilled water into a tiny opening at least once per ironing session. It’s awful.

#2 - Shaun Beyer - Iowa Hawkeyes

Shaun Beyer wasn’t even the second-best tight end on his team last year, but our writers think Iowa will pop out yet another good tight end. Stewmonkey13 is particularly excited:

I kinda think that Iowa is still going to be awesome at the position. Shaun Beyer is a pretty great athlete and is capable of putting up some numbers.

Vague? Sure, but also pure optimism. Please go on (note, he actually said this first and I switched the order):

Iowa loses the two best tight ends in the country, but I think we’ll be fine. Obviously there’ll be a drop off, but Iowa’s got enough equity to gain my trust in producing NFL quality tight ends. Shaun Beyer seems the heir apparent at the #1 spot, and he’s got the speed to play split out occasionally like Noah Fant did. Drew Cook will likely be the in-line blocker, who runs drags across the middle. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one is all conference.

There you have it. Iowa will have all-conference talent at every tight end position.

I’ve grouped vacuuming and sweeping into the same general category of shore, because they’re just two versions of getting all your dirt and debris in one place and then throwing most of it into the garbage (minus those few annoying scraps you can never sweep up or the puff of dust that goes up upon pouring into the garbage). Also they both just take FOREVER. If you live anywhere larger than, say, a dorm room, you never quite appreciate just how much space the floor takes up until you’re vacuuming or sweeping the whole thing. They’re worse versions of mowing the lawn or shoveling, because at least with those two you get the very satisfying feeling that accompanies obvious visual progress toward completing your task.

#3 - Jake Ferguson - Wisconsin Badgers
Scrubbing the shower/bathtub

Ferguson gonna Gronk out

— MC ClapYoHandz

Jake Ferguson is Barry Alvarez’z grandson. Virtually every catch Ferguson made in 2018 was for a first down or touchdown. If you listened to a quarter of any Wisconsin game during the conference season, you already knew both those facts. Like Freiermuth, Ferguson received Honorable Mention from both coaches and media last year, and I don’t see any reason this year won’t be better. I think Wisconsin will have a better passing game in 2019, and any Paul Chryst team is going to rely heavily on first-down receptions from tight ends. Plus, Ferguson is apparently an adequate blocker, meaning he won’t be benched. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make an All Big Ten team this year.

Tom Lynn

Scrubbing out the shower or bathtub is a damper, more tiring, more noxious version of vacuuming or sweeping. Plus if you, say, don’t do it on a regular schedule, you spend a little time, every day, just looking at it, thinking about how it needs to be done. The stuff you spray probably melts lung tissue. The scrubby brushes are small and wherever you bathe has a surprising amount of surface area. Finally, when you have to rinse it off which involves throwing water at the walls and hoping it doesn’t splash all over and get poison in your eyes. Just terrible.

#4 - Brycen Hopkins - Purdue Boilermakers
Bagging Leaves

Finally! It took until 4th on the OTE list before we arrived at the only returning 2018 All Big Ten team member. My gut says Brycen will finish the year higher on this list than he started. Brohm is still going to want to run a billion plays ans score score score, but Purdue is likely to rely on a less...talented? accurate? good? quarterback in Elijah Sindelar than they had last year in David Blough. Beez-science says this means receivers who run shorter, simpler routes closer to the line of scrimmage (e.g., tight ends!) will get a lot more looks in 2019. Fair?

Hopkins went 34/17.1/2 TDs last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that first and last number go up significantly. Also, on a personal note, as someone who gets called by the wrong first name a few times per month*, I can’t imagine how often people screw up Brycen’s name. Do better, society. Names aren’t that hard.

* My name is Adam. I regularly get Andy, Aaron, Alan, and one time, most disrespectfully, “Adam.” Even worse, people call me these wrong names when responding to emails that HAVE MY FIRST NAME IN IT.

Bagging leaves is downright abhorrent. By far the most frustrating item on this list, it’d be up a lot higher if (a) you had to do it more than a couple times per year, or (b) “they” hadn’t said it was easier and better to just mow your leaves into mulch and leave them on your lawn. Unfortunately for me, a good amount of my leaves fall on the ol’ driveway, which isn’t a stellar place to mow. Instead, those leaves have to be swept into piles and then EXTREMELY awkwardly stuffed into bags. I’m sure this would be easier if I had someone to help hold the bag open, but my dog hasn’t learned that trick and “M4F to help bag leaves” doesn’t work as well as you’d think. Raking isn’t too bad, as you’re outside on a nice day, getting a good amount of exercise, and the True Americans will have a leaf blower anyway. But raking? F that.

#5 - Jack Stoll - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Cleaning the inside of your car’s windshield

The last guy who gets ranked on our “worst chores” list is Nebraska’s Jack Stoll. OTE’s Nebraska writer Jesse Collins takes over from here.

When Frost and Co. were at UCF, the TE was a huge part of the offense. Jack Stoll is the number one again this year and while his numbers aren’t eye catching, he did come up stronger at the back half of the year. Look for Kurt Rafdal and Austin Allen to get some work in as both have a year of playing under their belt.

Nebraska writers Dead Read and BigRedTwice (we have three Nebraska writers?!?) add some numbers to what Jesse said:

Every nebby te returns. This brings a combination of experience and youth. Jack Stoll started every game, 21-245-3 and will likely be the prime target. He is 6-4 260ish. Austin Allen should emerge, as well. My man is 6-8 245 with 2 catches for 55 yds. There is hope for greater use of TEs in Frost’s offense. Last year we had Morgan and Spielman, and only one ball. We’ve got some dudes. At the very least, I don’t expect it to be a weak spot.

I thought @deadread said “my mom is 6-8 245” because of Beez’s question and the I thought we should really hang out sometime.

Chortle. You’d like her (only 5-3, tho).

Beez note: I’m sure we all would, Dead Read.

On to the chore! Once we get past the chores I’ve already listed, the rest really aren’t so bad. I thought about going with the old standby/cliche of folding a fitted sheet. That’s not so much annoying or awful as it is difficult, though. I can’t hate stronger than that. Instead, I chose cleaning the inside of your car’s windshield. Cleaning glass is always annoying, because streaks are a thing, but the inside of a windshield is worse for a couple reasons. First, your windshield is frequently viewed with a lot of bright sunlight hitting it, meaning you get to see EVERY SINGLE DAY just how streak riddled your windshield is, and most times there’s nothing you can do because don’t clean and drive, friends. Even worse, though, is how awkward and uncomfortable and difficult it is to clean a large piece of glass that angles away from you and for which there is a giant dashboard getting in the way of cleaning the bottom third. I’m frustrated just thinking about it.

That’s it for the guys I’m gonna rank, because I’m out of chores I passionately dislike. OTE’s panel of writers did an excellent job talking about some other guys, though, so here are some additional thoughts, 90% of which come from Thumpasaurus.

Maryland fan/writer DJ:
“Chig Okonkwo (I still spelled it wrong abbreviating his first name) will bust out as a true sophomore after finally being the first capable passing option at the position in three years. Perhaps that is me overselling it though considering the two years prior we had less than 5 catches combined from the position”

Minnesota fan/delusional homer WhiteSpeedReceiver gives us some analysis that’s almost as short as the list of Minnesota accomplishments in the last 20 years:
Brevyn Spann-Ford will be catching passes and Jake Paulson will be used as a blunt instrument. Both should be pretty good at their jobs.”

Beez note: His name is Jake Paulson. Anyone? Sweet, outdated, way overplayed 90’s movie jokes? No?

Northwestern writer MNWildcat, depressingly:
We have no idea. Trey Pugh is the only superback we know can catch. There’s also a freshman who might contribute right away.”

Beez note: But MNW bounced back, albeit with an overwhelming number of unnecessary slams!

“Hi friends! My mom was 5’11” at her tallest (towering over my 5’10.5” father). I don’t think that’s what we’re doing here, but I wonder which of beez’s parents let him down.

Anywho, Northwestern WOULD’VE had superback (it’s an h-back then a TE then an h-back again) Cameron Green returning, which would’ve been awesome. But he retired. And that’s bad, because he was the Wildcats’ third-leading receiver (57 for 483, 4 TDs) and a real mismatch for undersized DBs and slower LBs.

Instead, for receiving superbacks, Northwestern returns...junior Trey Pugh. That’s it. 3 catches, 29 yards. They lose, by comparison, 526 yards and 5 TDs of production. I am not an expert analyst, so I will let you tell me if that is bad. Pugh should be decent, but he’s also missing spring practice. So our hope is more traditional blocking-SB Charlie Mangieri or true frosh Thomas Gordon, who’s more of a Drake Dunsmore/Dan Vitale/Cam Green build. Hopefully he can catch passes.

But whatever. You’re short and not reading this anyways. But I helped!”

Michigan State writer Andrew Kraszewski:
MSU graduates Matt Sokol, a low-usage, low-impact 2-year starter, but there’s plenty of reason to hope for better from the position with Matt Dotson and Trenton Gillison, both former 4*s, manning the position this year. Brian Lewerke has never shown much disposition to look for his tight ends, but it would be a real waste if he and MSU’s shuffled offensive staff don’t make better use of their talent at this position.

Illinois writer Thumpasaurus closes things out with some solid jokes:
If the ncaa approves Luke ford’s waiver, he is immediately our top pass catching option

If they don’t, we probably aren’t going to use a TE very much

This is based on more than Ford’s measurables and his former top100 status; he’s shown good hands, serviceable route running and the ability to catch in traffic. I still don’t know how Rod Smith will use him. He’ll either be woefully misused or a matchup problem for other teams

Or he’ll redshirt because going to Illinois to be near your family is a less compelling reason than “Justin fields transferred and I’m not guaranteed to start anymore”

“Well, Luke Ford is just about the only transfer this year still waiting on his waiver. After Ahmad Starks four years ago, I’m expecting that he’ll have to sit a year since his hometown of Carterville is 190 miles from Champaign. The NCAA made it very clear that it has to be no more than a 100 mile radius, and even though they’ve only applied that rule once, it was applied to an Illinois transfer. So this is all academic. Daniel Barker is not a good enough player to be worth Rod Smith using the TE more in his spread offense.

BUT! If we don’t get screwed, Ford may play a big part in the offense. He’s easily the top receiving option due to the WR depth chart being trash, and at 6’7” and 260 he’s a matchup problem. Ford could very well end up being our leading receiver, but it’s still not clear how he’ll be used in this offense and his role probably won’t be 100% clear until the fourth game of the year. Huge upside though.”

There you have it! At least a little bit of information about a few of the Big Ten tight ends as we look ahead to the 2019 season. Educate us about your team’s tight end, correct some of the things we already said about tight ends, offer your own age-appropriate tight end story, or just complain about chores!

Anyway, back to chorin’


Themed OTE power polls for things other than in-season team rankings are:

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