Over the course of recent history the Texas Longhorns have been blessed with a long-line of pass catching threats at tight end. Guys like David Thomas, Bo Scaife and Jermichael Finley not only made their mark on the Forty Acres but have gone on to successful careers in the NFL, as well.
Since Finley’s departure to the NFL after his sophomore season a few years ago, there has been a noticeable drop-off in production among the Texas tight ends. In a fast-paced offense the Longhorns plan to run in 2013, having a few threats over the middle, especially in short-yardage situations would be a luxury, but for now it’s hard to factor that assumption into our predictions.
There’s plenty of physical talent among the incumbent Texas tight ends, but not a one has stepped up yet to be mentioned along with the greats. Could that change in 2013? Perhaps, but it’ll take a sea change.
M. J. McFarland
Redshirt sophomore M. J. McFarland stands apart from his peers at tight end in terms of who will be the “starter” this fall, but not by much. There’s little doubt of McFarland’s overall athleticism, but questions continue to lie in whether he can combine his natural pass catching ability with improved run blocking to not be a liability in a new offensive package.
McFarland caught only eight passes in 2012, for 125 yards and a single touchdown, with then-senior TE D.J. Grant getting more looks in short-yardage and the redzone.
Although his opportunities will continue to be limited, both McFarland and fellow returner Greg Daniels will need to make the most of what they have coming their way to hold off an intriguing junior college prospect who we’ll discuss shortly.
Greg Daniels was used as a blocking tight end first in 2012 who happened by circumstance to catch a few passes when the cards were down and a play fell apart. Daniels caught only five passes for 90 yards last season and again shouldn’t be much of an offensive threat apart from the possible one-off look in the red zone here and there dependent upon defensive schemes David Ash is faced with.
This leaves us with highly-regarded JUCO transfer Geoff Swaim and, to a lesser degree, hybrid wideout/tight end John Harris.
Geoff Swaim and John Harris
At 6’4″, 250 pounds Butte Community College transfer and California native Geoff Swaim has all the opportunity in the world to not only compete for playing time at the start of fall practice, but in fact, move his way up the depth chart.
Rated as the No. 4 tight end in the 2013 JUCO class by scouting services, Swaim caught only nine passes for 88 yards last season, but showed plenty of promise both athletically and in the blocking game. If Swaim lives up to the hype preceding him, McFarland and Daniels may need to watch their backs.
Redshirt junior wide receiver / tight end hybrid John Harris, is, on the other hand, more of a known quantity. Harris started his career at Texas as a wide receiver, but after an injury that sidelined him for the 2011 season and getting buried on the wide receiving depth chart last season, has nominally made the move to tight end for 2013.
It’s hard to see how Harris fits into Texas’ plans apart from maybe being used in specialty situations where his athleticism could be of benefit.
In short, the future is murky for Texas tight ends. With an ever-evolving offense, it may be they don’t even exist in terms of the traditional position down the road, with 2013 being their swan song.
No one knows for sure, but any production they could provide this fall would no doubt be welcomed with open arms by Major Applewhite, Mack Brown and the Texas coaching staff.
Kris is also featured in the print publication, Lindy’s In the Huddle – Texas Edition which hit stores on July 16th.