This is the third in a series of posts on Texas and its recruiting of the tight end position.
Part One took a look at UT's recent misfortune-laden history of recruiting and development at that position, and pointed out several low-rated recruits who developed into NFL Draft picks at other schools in the nearly seven years since Texas last had a tight end drafted.
Part Two focused on seven in-state tight ends who may be good fallback options (either as offers or preferred walk-ons) for the Longhorns in the event that they aren't able to get commitments from any of the three very highly-rated national recruits to whom they have offers out and are still strongly pursuing.
The overall picture of UT's tight end recruiting for the 2015 class hasn't changed a lot in the month since I posted Part Two., Devonaire Clarington, and Will Gragg are still the staff's top three targets, Gragg seems like a lock to stick with his Arkansas commitment, and Clark and Clarington both seem to like Texas a lot but aren't in a hurry to commit. Texas landing both Clark and Clarington is unlikely. Texas landing one or the other seems about as likely as them missing on both, and the latter scenario could lead the staff to send out some eleventh-hour offers to try and fill the class's tight end needs.
For that reason, it's essential that they identify and establish communication (something they've probably already done) with some acceptable Plan B (or C or D) options who may be open to signing with Texas if a scholarship slot presents itself. As stated, Part Two featured some Texas high school athletes who could be viable backup options.
Today, in Part Three, we'll travel beyond the state's borders and look at some (mostly under-the-radar) out-of-state high school recruits who I think have potential and could be added to the list of Plan B/C/D options. It's worth noting that tight end might just be the position for UT that has benefited the most from out-of-state talent in the past two decades. Former Longhorn tight end stars Pat Fitzgerald, Bo Scaife, and Blaine Irby all hailed from other states, and current tight ends Geoff Swaim, Andrew Beck, and Blake Whitely are also non-Texans.
UT's current top recruiting targets at tight end are all out-of-staters, so it wouldn't be too unexpected if the next few guys on the staff's board were as well, despite some of the in-state players they're known to have had contact with in recent weeks and months. Who might catch the staff's attention if they look outside the state's borders for a Plan B, C or D tight end?
I'm glad you asked! Here are a few lesser-known prospects who aren't in the same league talent-wise as Clark/Clarington/Gragg, but all bring something to the table and, in my opinion, have some upside that at least makes them worth a look. I'll list them in alphabetical order by last name. Though I've been researching this topic for well over two months, I admit that this is far from a comprehensive list of worthy out-of-state tight end recruits, as I'll leave that task to those who actually get paid to do such research and evaluation.
(St. Francis - La Canada, California) - committed to San Diego State
Both a very talented tight end and a speedy linebacker, Carroll was recruited by San Diego State as an athlete and committed to the Aztecs in November over an offer from UNLV and interest from some Pac-12 programs. In three varsity seasons at tight end/inside receiver, the 6'3" 220-pound Carroll caught 121 passes for nearly 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns, and as a senior he was his team's leading tackler with 85 total stops (63 solo).
In his highlights he shows soft hands and appears to be a good route-runner with good speed for the position. He has not been graded by Rivals but the 247Sports evaluators rate him as a three-star prospect, the #22 tight end nationally, and as a top-75 recruit in California. On their 1-10 skill grades, they give him 8s for his frame, athleticism, hands, route running, and ability at the point of attack.
Brandon Dillon (Carroll - Flora, Indiana)
He was just last week named to Indiana's Class A All-State First Team at tight end. At 6'4" 225 pounds, Dillon has the size to be a receiving mismatch at pretty much any level, and along with deceptive speed he has feet nimble enough to get him snaps at running back as well. As a senior, he caught 52 passes for 879 yards and 6 TDs, and also carried the ball 82 times for 510 yards and 12 TDs. He also found time to make 70 tackles as a linebacker. Sure, it's class A football in Indiana, but how many kids anywhere finish their high school career with 1,300+ yards rushing, 2,200+ yards receiving, and 200+ tackles? Not many.
Give him a redshirt year to bulk up and get used to the speed of the college game and I think he could be a very good tight end for somebody in a few years. He looks like he's got plenty of room to fill out and add weight, and the catch and run he makes at the 1:20 point in his highlights gives you an idea of how he gained over 3,500 yards from scrimmage in his career (and no, I'm not just referring to the 5'8" linebackers he's running away from). I think those who wanted Texas to pursue (current UTEP commit) Hunter Thedford would be fans of Dillon.
Julian Dunn (Newtown, Connecticut)
Because if you miss out on Connecticut's top tight end recruit (Chris Clark), why not recruit the guy who may be the state's second-best one? (Note: there's a player later on this list who might have something to say about who Connecticut's top two tight ends are.) A four-year varsity player, the 6'3" 230-pound Dunn had over 1,000 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior, and in his just-completed senior season he caught 42 passes for 683 yards and 14 TDs. He's a very aggressive blocker and seems to take a lot of pride in that facet of his game. I come to that conclusion based on the fact that he holds the Connecticut state record for receiving touchdowns in a career (49), yet his senior highlight video shows nothing but blocking plays for the first 2:15.
As with many talented tight end prospects, Dunn is also a good basketball player, and as a junior he averaged over 17 points and 8 rebounds per game. Press reports indicate that he has received interest from schools like UConn, UMass, Boston College, and some Ivy League programs over the past year, but none of the recruiting services list him having any offers. He'll be a steal for somebody.
Nate Heaps (Fork, Utah)
The 6'4" 236-pound Heaps caught 63 passes for 689 yards and 4 touchdowns as a senior, and helped lead his team to its first state championship berth since the JFK administration. His consensus two-star rating seems low to me. He has the size and ability to be a good blocker at the point of attack, and is a capable but not explosive downfield receiving threat. He probably won't average 14 yards per catch in college, but he looks like the type of receiver who could make a living by consistently getting open and picking up 6 or 7 yards on 3rd and 5, something David Thomas always seemed to be doing in his Longhorn heyday. The major recruiting services list him having an offer from (FCS) Weber State and interest from some of the region's FBS programs.
Isaac Moorhouse (Anderson Christian School - Anderson, South Carolina)
He's an under-the-radar prospect in every sense of the word. The 6'5" 235-pound Moorhouse suits up for the Anderson Cavaliers football program, which is comprised of student-athletes from several small private schools in western South Carolina, as well as some home-schooled boys who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to play high school football. The program has only been in existence for a few years, isn't well known, has yet to produce a Division I athlete, and its schedule doesn't include high profile opponents. And to make Moorhouse's recruitment even more difficult, a bout with mono earlier this year left him too sick to attend any football camps during the summer.
His size is the first thing about him that jumps out in his highlights, along with his hands and how well he moves when running downfield. He's not the smoothest or swiftest tight end on this list, but I think he'll be a much better player once he's had access to some D1-level speed and strength training. He caught 35 passes for 609 yards and 14 TDs as a junior, and had 28 catches for 369 yards and 9 scores this fall, and after the season he was named team MVP. He also plays basketball, and though he's mostly a post he has occasionally played point guard, which is something I'd really love to see film of.
Furman, Georgia State, and Wofford all showed interest earlier in the year. More recently, Florida Atlantic has been in touch with him over the past month, Cornell visited his school last week, and - most interestingly - he says TCU contacted his team's offensive coordinator recently to ask about him. How serious the Horned Frogs' interest is in Moorhouse and whether they like him at tight end, defensive end or some other position is not yet known. As of this writing, he has yet to receive a full scholarship offer from any school.
Foster Moreau (Jesuit - New Orleans, Louisiana)
The 6'5" 240-pound Moreau received a Tulane offer last week, and now has offers from essentially every Louisiana school not named LSU, along with some SEC interest. On the list of desirable qualities in a tight end, he's at least decent in every facet, and has a chance to be very good in some of them. He is reported to have 4.7 forty speed, already has good size for the position, and his head coach thinks he "can easily add 30 pounds." He also makes a pair of one-handed catches in his senior highlight tape that are among the more difficult grabs you'll see any tight end make. The first comes on the play that starts 1:20 into the video.
Going into last week's LSHAA Division I state championship game (in which Jesuit defeated state powerhouseto win its first state title since 1960), Moreau had 34 receptions for 454 yards and 6 TDs for the season If he doesn't get offered by any P5 schools like LSU or Texas, he'll likely have a fine career at a Conference USA or Sun Belt-level program.
Jared Streit (Eden Valley-Watkins High School - Eden Valley, Minnesota)
Streit is another football/basketball athlete with a body well built for both sports. Standing 6'6" and reported to be around 230 pounds, Streit is both a disruptive defensive end and an unfair mismatch at tight end for his school's competition level. He finished the 2014 season with 60 tackles, 9.5 sacks and a blocked punt, and it was actually his work on defense that earned him a spot on the St. Cloud Times' All-Area team, but he made a big impact at receiver/tight end as well, catching 39 passes for 765 yards and 12 TDs.
He moves well for a big receiver, reportedly running a 4.8 forty in his team's fall camp, and he has the ball skills you'd expect from an athlete who's been a varsity basketball player since he was in 8th grade. He has received interest from schools like North Dakota State and other FCS programs in that region, and he has attended games at Minnesota. He reports having one offer, though if he lived within 50 miles of Dallas-Fort Worth I think there's a good chance he'd have ten times as many.
Owen Tyler (Northwest Catholic - West Hartford, Connecticut)
He's a coach's son, the youngest of four siblings (including one girl) who all played high school football, and he has played all over the field during his high school career. At 6'4" and 240 pounds, he has the size to excel at several positions, and he has seen time at linebacker, tight end, wide receiver, and quarterback. His father and head coach describes him as a player with a very high football IQ, and one who can be plugged into pretty much any position and excel there. The elder Tyler, who played football at Boston College, also says Owen comes from a family of late bloomers and may not quite be done growing.
As a junior, he caught 44 passes for 492 yards, and was in on 70 tackles, including 13 for loss. Playing more at QB and less at TE/WR his senior year, he caught 11 passes for 148 yards and 4 TDs, while on defense he led the team in total tackles with 97. His recruitment got off to a slow start because he didn't attend any football camps during the summer before his junior year, and when he impressed some FBS schools at camps this past summer, he found that some that liked him were already full at tight end for their 2015 class.
His recruitment may pick up late, as he says his senior highlight video (see below) has helped him receive interest from some programs which "weren't extremely interested in previous weeks". Rhode Island has offered him as a defensive end, while Monmouth and Stony Brook have offered as a tight end. I like him at TE, though I'll acknowledge that middle linebacker or defensive end may be his best position long-term. It will be up to his next head coach to sort that out.
Also notable about Owen Tyler is a "catching skills" workout that he says he does almost every day, in which he practices catching footballs one-handed. A three-minute video of him doing this was posted on YouTube in April, and he says it has impressed coaches who have seen it, which I don't doubt at all.
In Part Four, we'll return to Texas and take a look at some players who may prove to be among the state's top tight end prospects for the 2016 and 2017 classes.