Can you blame it all on Ty?
Not entirely, under Neuheisel, and Gilbertson the Huskies had loaded up at the position by recruiting athletes who were DE/LB/TE/FB types. A lot of these kids were tweeners who didn't really find a fit even though they were moved around quite a bit during there tenure at Washington and ended up at TE which became a dumping ground.
This is Ty's fourth year, and he only has two of his own TE's on the roster, so it isn't like he recruited the position with a lot of urgency either electing to stay with the status quo. He also had an assistant coach who shouldn't have been coaching TE's which may have a little bit to do with the lack of improvement at the position.
I think it all changes this season with the addition of Izbicki, and Middleton. I think both of those kids are going to catch a lot of balls over the next four years.
Dark Years at TE
Gottleib....Walk on from Mercer Island recruited by Gilberston. OK, Mike has started quite a few games, but from a historical perspective he would be a kid that would fit in nicely as a third TE, not your starter.
Kirton....Came in as a huge TB, played some FB, moved to TE but never made the impact. Finishing his senior year as a DT which is where he should have been from the get go. I think most people were pretty sure that Kirton would be an AA TE before he left, but he just didn't get better, and in fact declined from a target perspective.
Winter....Was a HS All America LB who was asked to beef up to play DE, with the beef came the lack of speed which he already was a little short on. Moved to TE last year to shore up the depth. Walt will get some playing time this year.
Lewis....Was recruited by Neu as an athlete and started off on defense before moving over to TE. A better Dash Crutchley who started some games.
Williams....Very raw kid from TW's first recruiting class. Was a throw in at the end of a bad recruiting year. They envisioned him more as a OL someday, but he was a BB player in HS so they wanted to check out his hands.
Crutchley...."Dash"...Great name, not a very good player despite being a good athlete. The classic Neu guy that couldn't find a position. What was your favorite Dash Crutchely moment?
Benn....Brother of the Husky Center was more of a nepotism pick and a bow to HS powerhouse O'Dea. Was never going to develop into a great TE, and injuries cut his career short.
Heater....His dad was surprised when Rick offered him. He stuck it out and had a good experience at UW despite bouncing around and not playing much.
LaSee....Another kid in the Crutchley, Heater, Lewis, Benn, Williams, Winter profile which means they weren't targeted as a TE, but just ended up there for lack of anothe rplace to put them.
Before the decline
UW was still three deep in quality early in the decade, but injuries and recruiting mistakes began to decimate the position. Toledo and Bandell both had AA potential, but were cut down by injuries.
Toledo....Still hanging on in the NFL. He had great talent, but was very injury prone.
Bandell....On a par with Toledo talent wise, but injuries cut him down by Sophomore year.
Lyons....A JC transfer who was a solid and productive backup.
Ware....One of the very good one's to play at UW. He had a little off field trouble, but was very productive as a blocker, and pass catcher.
Collier....Extremely solid during his career at UW as an old school UW TE.
Westra....Was an essential part of the rotation.
This season at TE
UW is reloading and weeding out this position in 2008. Johnnie Kirton moves to the DL and Mike Gottleib arrives this Fall as the incumbent starter. RS Chris Izbicki, and true frosh Kavario Middleton make up the rest of the rotation with Sr Walt Winter.
Gottleib has had a decent career winning a scholarship soon after walking on at UW. He isn't a flashy receiver, but the coaches like the way he follows his blocking assignments.
Izbicki had a decent Spring, and looked good in the Spring game. He isn't a finished product and still has some work to do. He will play a lot this season in a three man rotation.
Kavario Middleton was one of the top recruits in the country last year and the coaches are hoping he makes an immediate impact this Fall. If all goes to plan Kavario should be the starter by the end of the second bye week. The kid has a lot of great tools, and should be the best TE since Stevens moved on to the pro's. Expecting a freshman to live up to that immediately is a tough one, but he has a shot.
While the talent level is going up the experienced depth is simply not there. You have a walk on senior, and two guys that have not played a single game in the rotation. If you suffer an injury Walt Winter comes in play. This position needs another year or two of excellent recruiting to be completely rebuilt.
Gottleib, and Winter are graduating which means UW will only have two TE's on the roster next season. I could see UW taking 2-3 this recruiting season. You like to have at least five scholarship TE's playing, or in development on your roster at all times.