They used to call this place Tight End University. Washington always had a pipeline of four to five guys who were going through the system on their way to the NFL. Jeremy Stevens was the last big time TE at Washington. The days of TEU ended for all intents and purposes ended as injuries wiped out the careers of Joe Toledo, and Ben Bandel. UW hasn't been successful since then bringing in the type of players who excel at the position.
The current group is headed by three seniors, Johnnie Kirton, Mike Gottleib, and Walt Winter. Winter hasn't played much since coming to UW as an AA LB/DE/TE. He has seen limited time on special teams, and defense.
Gottleib was a walkon from Mercer Island who earned a scholarship. Mike has become the most consistent player at the position. Historically Gottleib would be a #3 TE at UW when you judge his talents, and results. He blocks well, but dropped some key passes last season.
Kirton has the body, size, and quickness, but has never developed into much of a threat since he arrived. He has had trouble blocking, holding onto the ball, staying in shape, and running precise routes.
The future of the position isn't these three guys. Kirton is rumored to be moving to DE this Spring which is the position he should have been at since he hit campus. Kirton is a prime example of a football player who was poorly developed. Most of it is his fault because he insisted on playing TB. Johnnie is best suited for DE, and if he had started his career he probably would have made an impact.
The immediate future is RS Chris Izbicki, and true frosh Kavario Middleton. Both of these guys were consensus Parade All Americans, and both are expected to give the position much needed shot in the arm in 2008. Can one of these guys have the immediate impact of a Mark Breuner who arrived on campus physically ready to do everything from the get go? Chris has the advantage of having a full year under his belt, plus a year of strength training.
Blocking is a real important part of this position, so hopefully these two kids are physically ready for it this Fall. The coaches feel that Izbicki can be the complete package, the same is thought of Middleton. I watched Middleton in the Army All Star game on the DL and was impressed by his speed and agility.
Demetrius Guice from Portland could also be part of the class if UW has enough room to fit him in, or are succesful getting him to agree to gray shirt. Quality TE's are tough to find, and if Guice can get in for 2009 that should signal the return of the position as a strength. Guice would likely redshirt in 2008 anyway, so coming in for Winter 2009 wouldn't hurt him, or his chances to play his first year.
The Huskies are rebuilding this position from scratch, but after three years on the job Ty for all intents and purposes is just starting. The Huskies will also bring in a new TE coach in 2008 which should help the maturation of the younger players.
The problem over the past few years is that they have been recruiting too many athletes, and not enough true TE's. It seems players get moved here rather than specifically recruited for the position. That stops with the arrival of Middleton, Izbicki, and possibly Guice. Those are three nice young kids to build around. Gottleib goes into the Spring as the starter, and Kirton will probably get a shot over at DE. Keep an eye on Izbicki this Spring, if he emerges as the starter the position will be improved. If Gottleib hangs on expect more of the status quo.
The tight end as a prime pass receiver has almost dropped completely out of the offense during Willingham, and Lappano's tenure. UW needs to find a way to work the young players into the offense over the Spring. If Gottleib is your starter come Fall expect more of the status quo which will be bad news.
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