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2019 Recruiting: in-state tight end prospects

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Profiling some of the top in-state recruits at a position Texas is always looking to upgrade

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2019 tight end prospect Jared Wiley (Temple) visiting Texas at its Junior Day on February 17, 2018.

Among the many expected changes to the Texas Longhorns football program augured by Tom Herman’s hiring as head coach in November 2016 was a return to prominence for the tight end position. In the decade or so since would-be standout tight end Blaine Irby’s career-altering injury early in the 2008 season, that position group had been famously snakebitten by injuries and a lack of development on the field, and hurt on the recruiting front by de-commitments from highly-regarded targets (Durham Smythe, Major Tennison), commits not passing muster with the NCAA Clearinghouse (Devonaire Clarington), and talented potential recruits who preferred to take their talents to established tight end factories like Stanford (Kaden Smith), Notre Dame (Brock Wright, Smythe), and Alabama (Tennison, Irvin Smith, Kedrick James) rather than the moribund tight end room at Texas.

Not helping matters has been the instability regarding offensive philosophies and the actual role and usage of tight ends from year-to-year that tends to occur when there is frequent turnover among offensive coordinators; ten different coaches (including newly hired Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach Herb Hand) have served as offensive coordinators at Texas since the start of the 2010 season, either according to their job title or through having actual play-calling duties (the number of designated play-callers UT has had during that period is probably closer to seven, but you get the idea).

After taking over at Texas, Herman almost immediately helped bolster the future of the program’s tight end group by flipping highly-regarded 2017 recruits Cade Brewer (Lake Travis) and Reese Leitao (Jenks, Oklahoma) from SMU and Nebraska, respectively, and their signings coupled with the addition of graduate transfer Kendall Moore from Syracuse appeared to give the team some immediate, if unproven, depth.

Things didn’t quite go according to plan, however. In the fall of 2017, the Longhorns saw tight ends sustain season-ending injuries before the season (Andrew Beck), two games into the season (Garrett Gray), and late in the season (Cade Brewer), and depth issues led to former four-star running back recruit Chris Warren III being moved into an H-back role. Despite the injuries there were some positive developments; Leitao was able to redshirt and Brewer showed signs of being a solid contributor, and UT tight ends combined for 16 receptions, a figure that doesn’t include however many of Warren’s 18 catches for 229 yards that came after he’d been moved to H-back.

Those numbers are pretty far removed from the glory days of the 2004 season, when future NFL tight ends Bo Scaife and David Thomas combined for 51 receptions and 7 touchdowns. Or the stretch from 2005 to 2007, when David Thomas (2005) and Jermichael Finley (2006-07) averaged 42 receptions per year. But for Longhorn tight ends, 2017 was an unqualified improvement over 2016, when they were used almost exclusively as extra blocking surfaces in former offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s veer-and-shoot offense and produced only 6 catches for 92 yards and 2 TDs.

Barring injuries, transfers, or position switches, the Longhorns’ tight end room going into the 2019 season will feature the following:
JR Cade Brewer
SO Reese Leitao
SO Max Cummins (a former DE)
Redshirt FR or SO Malcolm Epps
[2019 signee]

There’s some solid potential in that group but we have yet to see any of them besides Brewer in a college game. As is always the case, the UT staff is seeking to add high upside talent to the roster, and it will look to add least one and possible two tight ends in the 2019 recruiting class. Texas is reported to have offered eight class of 2019 tight ends so far, and more could land offers in the coming months.

In this post I’ll profile the two in-state tight end recruits Texas has offered, then look at several of the other top in-state recruits at the position for the 2019 class. I’ll write about the out-of-state tight ends Texas has offered in a future post.

The 247Sports database lists 14 Texas tight ends from the 2018 class who signed with FBS teams, and a few others who signed with Division I-FCS programs. I’m not quite as high on the state’s 2019 tight end group as I was on the 2018 crop at this point last year, but it has its share of talent and could easily produce a dozen or more FBS signees when all is said and done. A lot can happen between now and February 2019 - never mind 2023 - but at the very least this class has the potential to produce more FBS-level contributors at TE than any of the recruiting classes from 2013 to 2017.


2019 Texas tight ends with UT offers

Baylor Cupp (Brock) - Texas A&M commit

Cupp is hard to miss on the football field, at around 6’6” and 235 pounds, and is, in my opinion, the top tight end in the state for his class. He missed most of his sophomore season due to a series of injuries and was mostly unknown in recruiting media circles until late last year. As a junior in 2017 he was a punishing blocker for Brock’s run-heavy offense, and though he didn’t make a ton of catches he put his long arms (he reportedly has a 80” wingspan) and great speed to devastating use when targeted as a receiver, often picking up big chunks of yards on play-action passes. For the year he recorded 21 catches for 478 yards (22.8 yards/catch) and 6 TDs. He helped lead the Eagles to a 13-3 overall record and a berth in the Class 3A Division I state championship game, where they lost 45-29 to Rockdale.

Cupp received his first offer from Texas State on January 27, and by the end of February he held a reported 17 offers. Texas offered Cupp when he visited Austin for its Junior Day on February 17. Brock head coach Chad Worrell told BON in early April that he had been in regular contact with Longhorn tight ends coach Derek Warehime, saying “They [the UT staff] love his athleticism coupled with his size. He plays a true TE position for us, and they love his aggressiveness and run blocking ability.”

Those qualities are on full display in his junior year highlight video, and though he doesn’t run a large variety of routes in Brock’s offense he receives praise from Coach Worrell for that aspect of his game, and he will work to continue improving in that area leading into the 2018 season (Class 3A defensive coordinators beware!).

Cupp is also a decorated sprinter, an extremely rare quality in a 235-pound kid. In terms of track speed, he’s easily among the fastest tight end recruits the state has produced in recent memory (Jacksonville State TE Clay Alexander, a Montgomery alum, once ran a 200 meter dash in 22.05 seconds, but he was probably at least 25 pounds lighter than Cupp at the same age). Last month, Cupp won the 200 meters at his area meet and ran a personal best 22.55 to finish fourth at the 3A Region 1 meet. He also was a member of Brock’s sprint relay teams and took first place in the shot put at both his district and area meets. He will compete at next week’s 3A state track meet in the boys shot put final.

As of this writing Cupp is a four-star recruit and ranked as the nation’s #9 tight end recruit and #36 overall prospect in the state, according to the 247Sports composite ratings. Cupp committed to Texas A&M on April 15, and Texas will likely have to focus their tight end recruiting efforts elsewhere.

Jared Wiley (Temple)

Wiley, another tall dual-sport athlete, was offered by Texas on February 19. He had a successful junior season while helping the Temple Wildcats to a 12-2 overall record and a berth in the state quarterfinal round for a fourth consecutive season, catching 26 passes for 328 yards and 4 TDs and earning all-district first team honors at tight end from the coaches of District 18-5A. Not bad for a guy who’d never played tight end before.

As a sophomore in 2016 he was the placekicker and reserve quarterback on a Temple team that went 12-4 and reached the 5A Division I state championship game. With the graduation of Temple’s starting quarterback from 2017, T.J. Rumfield, Wiley will likely return to his more accustomed signal-calling duties this fall, before making the switch back to tight end when he starts his college career.

Wiley, whose size is variously listed as 6’5” or 6’6” and 215-230 pounds, received his first offer from Missouri on December 12, and along with Texas he now holds additional offers from SMU, Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette. At present, he is graded as a three-star prospect and ranked the #42 tight end in the 2019 class and #153 overall recruit in Texas, according to the 247Sports composite ratings. He had very positive things to say about Texas following the spring game, and Orangebloods reports that he’ll graduate early this coming December. If he were to sign with Texas he’d be the Longhorns’ third Temple recruit in four years, joining class of 2016 wide receiver Davion Curtis and 2017 defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham.

Along with being a D1 football recruit he is a standout on the baseball diamond and helped his Temple team reach the 5A playoffs, which will begin later this week.

Other top in-state 2019 tight ends

The following are the other eight prospects who (along with the aforementioned Baylor Cupp and Jared Wiley) comprise the top ten TE recruits in Texas for the 2019 class, in this writer’s opinion. Disclaimer: I’m not a coach or a scout and never have been; I’m just a guy who’s watched a lot of football and in particular has written many posts at this site about previous tight end classes and learns a bit more each year on how best to evaluate them. These next eight players are listed in the order of my personal preference.

Austin Stogner (Plano Prestonwood Christian) - Oklahoma commit

The 6’6” 230-pound private school star has been a known name on the recruiting landscape for a long time now. He received his first offer in October of 2016, in the middle of a sophomore season in which he finished with 17 receptions (seventh-most on his team) for 336 yards and 5 TDs.

His recruitment kicked off in earnest in February 2017 after he was named WR/TE MVP at The Opening regional camp in Houston, and by the end of that month he held six P5 offers. He committed to Oklahoma on June 23, 2017, by which time he held offers from a Who’s Who of college football superpowers.

Last fall he finished his junior season with 40 catches for 447 yards and 9 TDs, as his Prestonwood Christian team finished 12-2 and took home the TAPPS Division I state championship trophy with a come-from-behind 42-41 win over Houston St. Pius X. Stogner caught 6 passes for 55 yards in the state final. This spring he has received plaudits from pundits for his performances at a plethora of camps and combines, with the “elite” tag being tossed around by some scribes.

He is currently rated as the #2 tight end in the nation and the #95 recruit overall in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports composite ratings. On film he shows himself to be an athlete with the size, hands, and ball skills to be an obvious mismatch for defenses when split out wide, and one with the potential to hurt defenses attacking the seam as well.

The perceived knock on him, to the extent that there is one, is that he is old for his grade and probably closer to reaching his ceiling than most of the other top tight ends in this class. He is already 18 years old and is in fact nearly seven months older than the state’s top tight end from the 2018 class, Michigan signee Mustapha Muhammad (Fort Bend Ridge Point). One might could make an argument that Baylor Cupp or another in-state tight end has a higher ceiling than Stogner, but he has the highest floor and it’s not particularly close.

Notably absent from Stogner’s list of reported offers is your Texas Longhorns, meaning he’s far more likely to be Oklahoma’s next Mark Andrews than Texas’s next Jermichael Finley.

Thomas Gordon (Houston Strake Jesuit) - Northwestern commit

At 6’5” and roughly 220 pounds, Gordon is another private school standout and among the most highly sought-after tight end recruits in the state. He has led Strake Jesuit (which is in Class 6A and is one of the few private school teams to compete in the UIL) in receptions for two straight seasons, grabbing 71 total receptions for just over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs between his sophomore and junior seasons.

As with many top tight ends, he has also done some work on the basketball court, and he averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds per game for Strake Jesuit’s varsity team this winter.

Gordon holds well over a dozen FBS offers and has had schools pursuing him since at least the spring of his sophomore year. He committed to Northwestern on January 21 of this year, three days after the Wildcats offered him. Should Texas strike out on their favored in-state targets, Gordon would be more than worthy of an offer, but Gordon very much prizes the academic prestige of Northwestern and the football tradition of the Big Ten, and Northwestern has become very good during head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure at getting spring commitments from talented Texas recruits and keeping them in the fold all the way to National Signing Day. I’m a big fan of Gordon but won’t hold my breath on him wearing the burnt orange in college.

247Sports’s composite rankings have Gordon as the #21 TE in the nation and #60 overall recruit in the state.

Jalen Wydermyer (Dickinson)

While his offer list does not have the overall quantity of Austin Stogner’s, Jalen Wydermyer has as many quality offers as any tight end in this class. He received his first offer from Baylor in May of 2017, and in the year since then he has reported 19 total FBS offers, including ones from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami (Florida), Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Texas A&M. He visited Texas for Junior Day in February and is being followed on Twitter by no less than seven UT coaches and support staffers, but he has not reported an offer from the Longhorns. Perhaps that will change at some point this spring.

Wydermyer, whose recruit profiles list him at 6’5” and 225-235 pounds, earned first team all-district honors at tight end after catching 25 passes for 412 yards and a team-leading 8 touchdowns during the 2017 football season and helping Dickinson reach the area round of the 6A Division I playoffs. Afterwards he switched to basketball and earned first team all-district honors in that sport as well, helping Dickinson to a runner-up finish in District 24-6A. Dickinson lost 54-52 in overtime to Alief Taylor in the first round of the basketball playoffs, and that Taylor team went on to win its next three playoff contests (two of them in double-overtime) by a combined margin of eight points before losing in the 6A Region III championship to eventual state runner-up Katy Tompkins.

Physically, Wydermyer reminds me of 2018 tight end Nic McTear (Frisco Heritage), a one-time Oklahoma State commit who received Big 12, ACC, and SEC offers but eventually signed with San Diego State. They both lined up in a variety of spots along their teams’ formations, from tight end to the slot to H-back, and both were skilled at attacking the middle of the field as receivers and working off play-action, though McTear showed a lot more prowess as a blocker on the edge as an attached TE.

Wydermyer’s highlights don’t show him playing as an attached TE a whole lot, nor are there many clips to be found of him physically taking on defensive ends or linebackers as a blocker, but he’s got athletic potential and plenty of filling out to do. He has 19 offers for a reason. The 247Sports composite ratings have him as the #17 TE nationally and the #52 recruit in Texas.

Simon Gonzalez (Magnolia West)

If you’re a fan of Texas Longhorns tight end Cade Brewer and are curious who his equivalent in the class of 2019 might be, look no further than Simon Gonzalez. Gonzalez isn’t employed in quite the variety of positions and alignments as the former Lake Travis star, but he does a lot of the same things well, and like Brewer he was a very aggressive blocker despite having merely average size for a tight end prospect as a junior.

Gonzalez says he weighed around 200 pounds as he entered the offseason after the end of his team’s 2017 season, and in February he measured 6’3” and 212 pounds at The Opening Houston regional camp, putting him at roughly the same height and slightly lighter than Brewer was at the same age. He reports that he measured 6’3.5” and 222 pounds in late April.

Lining up primarily in the slot with occasional snaps as an attached tight end, Gonzalez caught 27 passes for 500 yards and 7 TDs in 2017, helping Magnolia West to the area round of the playoffs and earning first team All-District 20-5A honors. In his team’s two playoff games (a bi-district win over Leander Rouse and an area loss to Temple) he had a combined nine receptions for 251 yards and three TDs.

He’s a good route-runner with the ability to get open against high school defenders and good hands to pull in the ball while taking a hit. How he’ll fare in college while blocking bigger opponents is something coaches have to project with any high school tight end, and though Gonzalez’s blocking plays seen in his junior highlights primarily match him up with defensive backs, he shows a real mean streak in that area of his game.

He’s another prospect whose recruitment has started to heat up in the past two months. Since late February he has reported offers from Louisiana Tech, UTSA, Texas State, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Tulane, Southern Mississippi, Wyoming, and Tulsa, and he has recently started to receive interest from Texas.

Gonzalez tells BON that he had not had much direct contact with Texas before two weeks ago but the UT staff had been in touch with his coach and he ended up getting an invitation to attend the Orange-White Spring Game on April 21. After visiting Baylor for its spring game earlier that day he made the trip down I-35 to Austin. He says he had a nice conversation with Longhorn tight ends coach Corby Meekins after the spring game and was told he was “a top prospect on UT’s radar” and that Meekins was a fan of his frame and ability to make plays as a receiver. Texas wants to see him in one of their camps this summer, and he’ll presumably be one of the tight end prospects the staff will be evaluating for future offers if they don’t have a commit at the position in the next few months.

247Sports grades Gonzalez as a three-star recruit and ranks him as the class’s #41 tight end recruit and the state’s #150 prospect.

Nolan Matthews (Frisco Reedy)

Matthews stands at a listed 6’5” and 230 pounds, but spent most of his junior season lining up as an outside receiver. He caught 20 passes for 331 yards and 5 TDs in 2017 and earned second team All-District 13-5A honors at wide receiver. He helped Reedy - which was playing in just its second varsity season - to a 9-1 regular season record and a runner-up finish in its highly competitive all-Frisco ISD district.

Matthews has reported offers from Air Force, Kansas, SMU, Southern Miss, Texas State, and UTSA, and is on the radar of a number of P5 level programs. In the past three months he has visited Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma State, and has publicly coveted an Ole Miss offer.

Whether Matthews remains at outside receiver or spends more time in an actual tight end role this fall remains to be seen, but he will almost certainly be a tight end at the next level.

As with many future tight ends who spend their high school days playing receiver, he’s got a long way to go before he’s a college-ready blocker. He shows some physicality in a “blocking plays only” highlight video, though most of the guys he’s blocking are much smaller defensive backs, which is not to suggest that he has a lot of control over who he’s assigned to block. In any case, his potential as a receiving weapon will be what gets him college offers for now, and he’ll have plenty of time to improve in other areas of his game.

Helping his cause is that he’ll be catching passes from one of the best QBs that any tight end in this post has: 2019 prospect Josh Foskey, who passed for 2,641 yards, 24 TDs and just 4 INTs as a junior and will be a third-year starter for Reedy this fall. 247Sports ranks Matthews as the class’s #51 tight end and the state’s #175 overall prospect.

Keshon Williams (Longview Pine Tree)

Williams is one of the lesser-known tight end recruits in the state with multiple D1 offers, but I think he’ll have more interest later this fall. He played his junior season primarily as an H-back and running QB, and he compiled 339 rushing yards and 16 TDs on 76 carries while also catching 15 passes for 194 yards and one score. He was unanimously voted to the All-District 16-5A first team as a fullback. Some recruit profiles list him as an athlete, though he told BON last month that all the schools he had an offer from were recruiting him as a tight end.

He shows potential to be a good blocker in a H-back role, and displays good body control in the catch he makes at around the one-minute mark of his junior highlights. In addition to football he also suits up for Pine Tree’s baseball team as a pitcher and first baseman.

Texas State was the first school to offer Williams back in October, and he has since added offers from Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Rice, and UTEP. He was one of several in-state tight ends to visit Texas in February, and he says he heard a lot from the staff leading up to that visit, but has had very little communication with them in the two and a half months since then.

The 247Sports Composite ranks Williams as the class’s #51 tight end and the state’s #185 overall recruit.

Lawal Oyedemi (Fort Bend Clements)

A talented two-way Houston-area athlete, Lawal Oyedemi is high on the list of “best tight ends in the state that few are really talking about”. His name has started to get around player personnel offices at D1 schools, but he appears to be a far less known name among recruiting reporters than most of the others mentioned here. There are two primary reasons you probably haven’t heard of him yet: he didn’t put up big numbers as a junior, and he plays for a school where wins have been hard to come by of late. But he’s a quality athlete with good size and movement skills and the potential to play multiple positions in college, and to watch his junior highlights is to wonder how he doesn’t have more offers.

Fort Bend Clements went 13-1 in 2007, the school’s last season under former head coach Jeff Hulme (who has since led two other schools to the state quarterfinal round or further, and whose Waco Midway team reached the 6A Division II state championship game in 2017), but the Rangers have posted just one winning record in the ten seasons since then and have just six wins total over the past seven seasons.

In spite of its lack of on-field success, Clements has produced a few D1-caliber athletes in recent years and will likely have two alums starting for teams at the FBS level this fall: Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater and Miami (Ohio) wide receiver Luke Mayock. 2015 grad Kolt Harfield could also be in the two-deep at quarterback next season for FCS program Central Arkansas, the defending Southland Conference champion. Oyedemi is among the next Clements Rangers in line to represent their school at the FBS level.

In 2017, Oyedemi earned second team all-district honors at both tight end and linebacker, making him one of only two players from District 20-6A to be named all-district on both sides of the ball. He likely would have been the first team tight end if not for the presence in that district of Fort Bend Ridge Point’s Mustapha Muhammad, the state’s top TE for the 2018 class.

Oyedemi stands 6’4” and says he played the 2017 season at about 230 pounds. He moved very well for that size and showed some elusiveness after the catch and potential as an outside zone blocker when playing tight end, and he made some good open-field tackles at linebacker and even safety while on defense. You’ll very rarely see an athlete of that size being asked to line up at safety at any level, even for limited snaps. He tells BON that he’s now up to 245 pounds.

Along with football he has also played basketball in high school and in AAU competition, and he has played soccer from a very young age. Oyedemi last played the latter sport competitively in 7th grade but still plays it recreationally from time to time, and he says playing soccer has “helped tremendously” when it comes to developing good footwork.

His recruitment has yet to really take off in terms of offers but he’s been in touch with several schools this spring. The Ivy League’s Penn extended his first offer two months ago, and they remain his only offer as of this writing. He has also had contact this spring with Texas A&M (whose spring game he attended last month), Rice, SMU, Texas State, Sam Houston State, Northwestern State, Princeton, and Yale, among others, and he’ll probably catch the eye of more schools as coaches visit Clements during the spring evaluation period. Penn is recruiting him as a linebacker but he says Rice and SMU have looked at him at tight end, and given his size it wouldn’t be surprising if he got recruited as a defensive end as well.

Garrett Miller (Round Rock)

One of the better Austin-area tight end recruits in recent years, Miller is a good athlete with a great frame for the position. He measured 6’4.5” and 223 pounds at The Opening Houston regional in February, and the event’s results list him recording a 4.769 forty-yard dash, a 4.40 shuttle. a 28.7” vertical jump and a 42’ kneeling powerball toss, good for an excellent 102.42 Nike Football Rating (aka: SPARQ score), which was the 11th best score recorded at that event.

Last fall he was the second-leading receiver on a 2-8 Round Rock team that ran a lot more than it passed. He caught 27 passes for 424 yards (15.7 yards/catch) and 2 TDs, and his play earned him second team All-District 13-6A honors at tight end, though he spent a lot more time lining up in the slot.

He has reported a half-dozen offers so far this spring, starting with Louisiana-Monroe on February 7, and later adding McNeese State, Texas State, UTSA, UTEP, and Tulsa. He has not been offered by Texas but is on the staff’s radar. He camped at Texas last June and he visited the Longhorns for spring practice on April 12. It’s always a good idea to at least be in touch with a FBS-caliber tight end who goes to school less than 20 miles away from the UT campus.

In the way he moves as a receiver, Miller reminds me a little of a taller Parker Eichenberger (a 2017 tight end recruit from Katy who is now at Houston), though the two of them were used in very different ways in their team’s respective offenses. 247Sports grades Miller as a three-star recruit, the country’s #39 tight end prospect, and the state’s #134 recruit.

Other 2019 TEs to watch

Some of these recruits already have D1 offers and will no doubt stake a claim to top ten in-state TE status with a good senior season this fall. For now, I’ll say they’re the Next-10 best in their class. They will be listed alphabetically by last name.

Asher Alberding (Houston Clear Lake)

2017 highlights

A 6’4” 220-pound tight end with better-than-average athleticism, Alberding caught 14 passes for 261 yards and one score as a junior and showed himself to be an effective blocker who plays with good leverage. He’ll likely play a bigger role in Clear Lake’s offense this fall, as the team graduated two of its three top receivers from last season.

He received his first offer last summer from Yale, and since late January he has reported offers from Texas State, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, and Rice. He is graded as a three-star recruit and ranked by the 247Sports composite as the #46 tight end and #168 in-state recruit overall.

Jack Bradley (Dallas Bishop Lynch)

2017 highlights

Bradley is a talented player with very good size at a listed 6’6” and 230 pounds, and he’s a double-UT legacy, to boot. As such, it’s not hard to imagine that he would have been among the first players offered had he been an incoming senior during the latter years of Mack Brown’s tenure. Bradley caught 15 passes for 334 yards and 3 TDs in 2017, helping Bishop Lynch to wins in its first 12 games before its season ended in the TAPPS Division I semifinals.

His father, Steve Bradley, played tight end at Texas in the mid-90s and was a four-year letterman, while his mother, the former Amie Smith, was a four-year starter for Jody Conradt’s Longhorn women’s basketball teams during the same period (1993-97) and led the team in rebounding in all four of her seasons. Mrs. Bradley is now an assistant women’s basketball coach at SMU and was previously an Assistant Athletics Director at UT from 2014 to 2016.

The younger Bradley received his first P5 offer this week from Colorado, after previously reporting offers from a collection of G5 (Rice, UTSA, New Mexico State), service academy (Air Force and Army), and Ivy League programs (Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Princeton).

Oscar Cardenas (San Antonio Brandeis)

2017 highlights

Playing for a 7-3 Brandeis squad in 2017, Cardenas finished second on the team with 21 catches for 351 yards and 5 TDs, and was unanimously voted the first team all-district tight end for District 28-6A Zone A. He’s a burly end who is used to lining up with a hand on the ground and knocking opposing linemen away from the ball when blocking. He took some screen passes for long gains and occasionally was moved into the slot as a junior. He looks like a defensive end when playing on offense, owing to his size and the #94 on his jersey. He tells BON he played his junior season at about 6’4” and 240 pounds, and that he is now up to 250.

Cardenas is a member of Brandeis’s baseball team, playing at first base and catcher, and at the conclusion of the regular season the team’s Maxpreps page listed him having a batting average of .277 and a team-leading 22 RBI. He also competes in the shot put for Brandeis’s track and field team, and qualified for last week’s 6A Region IV track meet. He had a top heave of 49’0.5” at regionals but against a very strong group throwers that distance only placed him 12th.

He received his first offer from FCS program Abilene Christian on May 1, and reports interest from Minnesota, North Texas, SMU, Texas State, Tulane, Tulsa, and UTSA.

T.J. Dever (Palestine)

2017 highlights

In six months it may turn out that I vastly underrated Dever by putting him in the “next 10”. Listed at 6’2”-6’3” and 235-240 pounds, the big east Texan had a very productive junior season on the gridiron, catching 32 passes for 607 yards and 4 TDs. Despite lining up primarily as an attached tight end or H-back, the coaches of District 9-4A Division I unanimously voted him as a first team all-district fullback. If he’s anywhere close to his listed size he’ll be a D1 player for somebody, because he moves very well and shows good hands. I feel like I make this comparison with one shorter TE prospect every year, but he’s got a bit of Dimitri Flowers to his game.

He also played for Palestine’s basketball team and was named to the 18-4A all-district second team. He reported receiving his first offer last week from Division II program Northeastern State. I bet several more offers will follow in the coming months. He does not yet have a recruit profile on 247Sports or Rivals.

Konner Fox (San Antonio Reagan)

2017 highlights

Listed as a pro-style QB on his Rivals profile and a wide receiver on his 247Sports profile, Fox has the athleticism to excel at multiple positions in high school, and at 6’5” and 226 pounds some college programs will envision him as a tight end.

He caught 32 passes for 592 yards (18.5 yards/catch) and 9 TDs as a junior, earning unanimous all-district first team wide receiver honors in District 26-6A. One of his catches was a sick one-handed grab along the right sideline versus Buda Hays in the first round of the 6A Division I playoffs, a game in which Fox caught 8 passes for 174 yards and one TD in a 26-25 win. [Author’s note: an earlier version of this post said the box score of the Reagan-Hays game indicated Fox had no catches in the game, which was the case for the teams’ September 22 regular season game, in which Fox was injured and didn’t play, but he did play and made a big impact when the teams met again in the postseason. I was informed after publication that the teams had played twice in 2017, and I regret the original error.]

Fox may have the meanest stiff-arm of any player mentioned in this post, and he uses it very effectively in several clips throughout his highlight film. He was also a member of Reagan’s varsity basketball team.

SMU was the first school to offer him (on February 24), and in an interview with Rivals he indicated the Mustangs were recruiting him as “a hybrid tight end”. He has since reported receiving offers from North Texas, UTSA, Texas State, Duke, Army, UTEP, and Tulane.

Luke Gibson (San Antonio Clark)

2017 highlights

Another standout two-sport athlete, Gibson has small forward size (listed at 6’5”-6’6” and 220 pounds) and wide receiver hands, and is one of the more intriguing, if lesser-known, tight end recruits in the class. As a junior he caught 27 passes for 473 yards and 5 TDs while playing primarily as a wide receiver, as tight end duties in Clark’s offense were filled by Baylor signee Ben Sims. As a sophomore in 2016, Gibson caught 15 passes for 320 yards and 4 TDs, and he teamed with the 6’5” junior Sims and 6’8” senior receiver Luke McGhee to form what was likely one of the tallest receiving trios put on a football field at any level.

Gibson has suited up for Clark’s varsity basketball team since his freshman year; he was voted the District Newcomer of the Year as a 9th grader and received first team all-district honors in both his sophomore and junior seasons, averaging just under 16 points per game in the latter campaign. Clark boys basketball coach Steve Sylestine, who played basketball at Texas A&M from 1976 to 1980, thinks Gibson could be a D1 basketball player as well as a D1 football player.

There’s very little blocking to be seen in his junior highlights but he shows a lot of promise as a receiver, and it’s easy to envision him playing in the 240-250 pound range in college once he’s done with basketball and dedicated to putting on good weight for football.

Gibson reported receiving an offer from Bowling Green (whose head coach Mike Jinks was the first head coach of San Antonio prep powerhouse Cibolo Steele) on December 13, 2017, and more recently he has reported football offers from Texas State, UTSA, and Princeton.

Bayler Jordan (Buda Hays)

2017 highlights

Jordan, who in almost any other class would be the best tight end recruit with the first name Baylor/Bayler, caught 23 passes for 338 yards and 3 TDs in 2017, earning a spot on the all-district first team at tight end in the high-powered District 25-6A, which had two teams (Austin Westlake and Lake Travis) reach at least the fifth round of the playoffs. His three TD catches for the season came against arguably the three best teams on Hays’s schedule: district foes Westlake and Lake Travis, and state-ranked 5A team Dripping Springs. Against that stout trio he caught 11 passes for 174 yards.

Operating as an attached tight end and sometimes H-back, Jordan shows some skill at getting open on a variety of routes, sometimes picking up big gains up the seam and sometimes working outside the hash marks on play-action passes. He looks like he’ll need to add quite a bit of muscle before taking any college snaps but he’s good enough to make a college roster at some level.

Ben Koch (Austin High)

2017 highlights

Listed at 6’6” and 235-240 pounds, he’s a very big guy who lines up in the slot in almost all of his highlight clips and who - stop me if I’ve described others in this post thus - moves well for his size. In the 2017 season he caught 28 passes for 363 yards and 4 TDs (third-best on his team in all three categories) and earned first team all-district honors at tight end in District 25-5A. Throwing him most of those passes was Austin High’s junior QB Sam Saxton, who was formerly a backup to Sam Ehlinger at Westlake, and whose father and grandfather both played football at Texas.

Koch also plays for Austin High’s baseball team, which has qualified for the 5A playoffs, and the team’s Maxpreps stats (which are likely incomplete) credit him with a .404 batting average for this season. He does not have a Rivals or 247Sports profile as of this writing, but he announced on April 20 that he had received an offer from Army. Also during the month of April he visited Rice and attended UTSA’s spring game.

Will Morgan (Waxahachie)

2017 highlights

Morgan caught 16 passes for 180 yards and 2 TDs during the 2017 season, and despite that relatively modest production he was unanimously voted as the all-district first team tight end out of the talent-rich District 10-5A, a district whose four playoff teams (Waxahachie included) all reached at least the third round of the playoffs.

At a listed 6’3” and 225 pounds, Morgan played primarily as an attached tight end and sometimes at H-back on offense and played some snaps at defensive end as well. His highlights display plenty of physicality on his part, and some nice hustle especially in the play beginning at about the 1:45 mark where he chases down and tackles a Lancaster defender attempting to run back a fumble recovered deep in Lancaster territory.

He is also a standout on Waxahachie’s baseball team. During a March 20 district win over Red Oak he pitched a complete-game one-hitter and collected four hits at the plate. He has not reported any college offers as of this writing.

David Sonnier (Lumberton)

2017 highlights

Checking in at 6’5.5” and over 250 pounds (he weighed 252 at February’s The Opening Houston regional), David Sonnier (who is sometimes listed as Gabe Sonnier as well) is a big high school tight end who could end up getting recruited as an offensive lineman. He made some good catches in his junior highlights and has at least decent straight-line speed. He also plays for Lumberton’s basketball team and was named an all-district second teamer as a sophomore and all-district honorable mention as a junior. But compared with a lot of the other prospects in this post, he doesn’t appear to be a great athlete overall, and his 66.12 SPARQ score at The Opening Houston would seem to support that.

Still, there are always going to be tight ends recruited more for their potential as blockers than for their athletic resemblance to Mike Gesicki or production as a receiver. Former Longhorn tight end Peyton Aucoin had over 20 offers as a recruit, though he was practically never used as a receiver in his high school’s offense. Same for Pearland Dawson’s 2018 standout TE Spencer Wells, who could have counted his career receptions on one hand with fingers to spare when he committed to Houston a year ago this month. Sonnier hasn’t shown the same skill or tenacity as a blocker as either of those two, but he can catch the ball and he’s big. And, as an ancient Philistine general once said (probably), “You can’t teach size.”

Revisiting my top TEs in the 2018 class

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote about the state’s top 2018 tight end recruits via a post in which I ranked my ten favorites and named ten others to watch. Here are those twenty players, as I ranked them at the time, and their eventual college choices.

  1. Mustapha Muhammad (Fort Bend Ridge Point) - signed with Michigan
  2. Malcolm Epps (Spring Dekaney) - signed with Texas
  3. Bralen Taylor (Cuero) - signed with Baylor
  4. Nic McTear (Frisco Heritage) - signed with San Diego State
  5. Brayden Willis (Arlington Martin) - signed with Oklahoma
  6. Christoph Henle (Arlington Oakridge School) - signed with Baylor
  7. David Priebe (Waco Midway) - signed with UCLA
  8. Ben Sims (San Antonio Clark) - signed with Baylor
  9. Tyrick James (China Spring) - signed with Tulane
  10. Jaylin Brown (Longview) - signed with Kilgore College

Ten other 2018 tight ends to watch (listed alphabetically)

Byron Bolin (Leonard) - signed with Cisco College
Darrell Fields (Pampa) - signed with West Texas A&M
Barclay Ford (North Forney) - signed with Stephen F. Austin
Jay-Ton Franklin (San Antonio Saint Mary’s Hall) - signed with Midwestern State
Jacob Kainer (Houston Cypress Woods) - signed with Tyler Junior College
Jackson Lanam (Corpus Christi Calallen) - signed with Texas State
Jay Marshall (Fort Worth Christian) - signed with Harding (as a defensive lineman)
Cade Rathbone (Frisco Reedy) - committed to Texas State as a preferred walk-on
Sloan Selmon (Houston Cypress Ridge) - signed with Tarleton State
Spencer Wells (Pearland Dawson) - signed with Houston