Texas Longhorns senior tight end Caleb Bluiett deserved it.
In the second quarter against the Texas Tech Red Raiders last Saturday, Bluiett finally received the first target of the season in the passing game. Caught it even, for a potential nine-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes on only the second attempt this season from the 18-Wheeler package.
Unfortunately, a chop block penalty on senior offensive guard Kent Perkins nullified the play, leaving Bluiett once again catch-less in 2016.
Once a defensive end, then a tight end, then a defensive end, then a tight end again, Bluiett’s path at Texas has been winding and unpredictable. When he was a defensive end, he was one of the best pass rushers for Texas in 2015 before suffering a knee injury late in the season.
The 6’4, 258-pounder transitioned back to tight end in fall camp and made an immediate impact, even though he wasn’t fully healthy.
In the 2015 offense, the Beaumont West Brook product was an underutilized but important piece of the passing game — while he only caught eight passes on 11 targets, he scored two key touchdowns and over 20 yards per reception. The touchdowns came in the wins against Baylor and Oklahoma.
Through it all, he’s been a consummate team player, always playing with high effort, and never complaining about this thankless task as a blocker.
Abandoned as a receiver in coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s veer-and-shoot offense, Bluiett has been content to serve dutifully in a running game that averages 5.1 yards per carry.
Big, strong, and physical, Bluiett is reminiscent of another former blue-collar tight end at Texas — Geoff Swaim of the Dallas Cowboys:
One of the few guarantees next season? The Texas run game will miss Bluiett. https://t.co/SLZncFXgbQ— EricInsideTexas (@EricNahlin) October 17, 2016
Against Texas Tech last weekend, Bluiett graded out around 90 percent in the running game, according to Gilbert.
“He did a really good job,” the offensive coordinator said on Tuesday. “He's just physical. He's strong, he's able to set the edge for us, come downhill on people, and it helps us obviously in our run game and our pass game as well. He's a guy that we're really excited about.”
Bluiett’s block on running back D’Onta Foreman’s shoeless 74-yard touchdown run against the Red Raiders was key, and he’s also an important component of the 18-Wheeler package and extremely effective on zone running plays, rarely getting beat in that area.
The 18-Wheeler package may not provide him another chance at his first catch this season and Gilbert isn’t likely to target him in the passing game since fellow tight end Andrew Beck is seemingly the preferred target there.
But one thing remains clear — even without any passes thrown his way or any accolades cast in his direction, Bluiett will keep ensuring that Foreman has open running lanes to exploit.
After he’s finished doing that, perhaps he can even follow in Swaim’s footsteps to the NFL.