Return to Glory

Return to Glory

Monday, February 27, 2012

Analyzing depth at the Tight End Position

The next stop on our whirlwind tour of the Gophers offensive depth will be the tight end position.  During 2011 Gopher tight ends caught 33 balls for 331 yards and 5 TDs.  The Gophers frequently used 2 tight ends, primarily Collin McGarry and Eric Lair and they accounted for virtually all production from the tight end position. They were both seniors and as a result can't factor into the Gophers plans going forward. As a result, this becomes one of the Gophers least experienced and unproven units moving into 2012 and beyond. The only two tight ends to factor into the Gophers plans really at all during 2011 were John Rabe and Drew Goodger who had 4 and 2 catches respectively. On the bright side 2 of John's catches were TDs.

John Rabe: hails from Iowa and arrived on the Gophers via the JUCO route after attending Ellsworth Community College. John is 6'4 252 lbs and will be a senior in 2012. He played in all 12 games of the 2011 season and started 6 games accumulating 4 catches for 36 yards and 2 TDs. John is the easy choice to see significant more playing time in 2012 as a starter. He showed flashes that he could be a valuable weapon in the red zone and has the size to be effective in the running game.

Moses Alipate: was a highly regarded quarterback recruit in the 2009 class. He was considered the #2 recruit in Minnesota and viewed by ESPN as the #28 quarterback recruit in the country and #128 player overall. Clearly, he has really never seen the field as a quarterback and now that he is a redshirt junior I think it is safe to say that ship has sailed. However, what is still an intriguing possibility is that rumors are they are looking to have Moses move to the tight end position. Moses is 6'5" 276 lbs, so clearly he possesses ideal size for the tight end position. Also, it is a common position transition for many quarterbacks to make. A clear example is Keith Nichol of Michigan St. who moved to tight end to make way for Kirk Cousins and he flourished as a tight end / wide receiver hybrid. Moses has all the athletic ability to become an impact player for the Gophers at the tight end position. What remains to be seen is whether he can accept this new role. If Kill can motivate Moses, look for him to become our top tight end by the end of the 2012 season.

Drew Goodger: played in 10 games as a true freshman during the 2011 season. He is 6'5" 249 lbs and will be a sophomore this year. It certainly says something about Drew that he saw significant action as a true freshman, but my fear is that was more out of necessity than undeniable talent. I haven't really seen enough out of Drew in the passing game to know what he brings to the table. He possesses a good frame that should benefit from an additional offseason in the weight room, which will help him with his blocking in the run game. However, I don't know that he will be a major factor in the passing game. Regardless, if Moses doesn't pan out as a tight end, Drew will see substantial playing time as the clear backup to John Rabe.

Maxx Williams: arrives as a brand new 2012 recruit from Waconia, MN. He was ranked the #7 player in the state of Minnesota and the #48 tight end in the nation. While he doesn't arrive with the hype of McDonald, Harbison or Nelson, this is an extremely exciting prospect that the Gophers are bringing in. He is a true jack of all trades that possess natural athletic ability. He actually played six different positions during his high school career. In fact, he recently played in the Semper Fidelis All American Bowl where he played tight end and was the punter, some are saying don't be surprised if he makes a push for the punting job this season. An interesting side note, his father Brian Williams also played for the Gophers and played professionally for the New York Giants from 1989 - 1999. Maxx arrives on campus at 6'4" 235 lbs with a solid frame and lots of potential to be a dynamic weapon in the years ahead. With the incredible lack of depth at the tight end position, I find it hard to believe they will be able to redshirt Maxx this year. If Maxx does see the field, I think it will become clear he is the Gophers best weapon at the tight end position. My early concern is whether he has the bulk yet to hold up in the running game.

Conclusion: I think it is quite clear this is perhaps the barest part of the Gophers team talent wise right now. I think John Rabe and Drew Goodger can be serviceable, but never really anything more than that. In addition, John Rabe is a senior. The key cog to this position is whether Moses can finally find his way onto the playing field as a tight end. I have concerns as to whether he can commit himself, but if he does it is a huge positive for our depth. Plus, Moses has the athletic ability to be a difference maker at the position, much the way MarQueis natural ability aids our wide receiving corp. The X factor will be the growth and development of Maxx Williams. I will stick my neck out and say he will be a special player for the Gophers in the years ahead and continue in the proud tradition of players like Matt Spaeth and Ben Utecht. If Maxx pans out we have a solid starter for the foreseeable future, but depth will remain a major concern.

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