Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Frankly, I can’t get my mind off of the UW basketball team so these have taken a backseat. To try to avoid my growing nervousness (26 hours until game time!) I’ll cover tight ends today.
Tight end is an interesting spot for the Huskies. There is no doubting that the Dawgs’ have talent at this position. Here’s how I see the depth chart at this position:
Kavario Middleton, 6-5, 253, JR. – When Sark came over from USC, people expected big things from Middleton. A tall, athletic tight end fits the pro-style offense that we run perfectly. Unfortunately, last year wasn’t a coming out party for Kavario. He had a solid year but struggled with the same inconsistencies that he had since arriving on Montlake. Middleton came in as a 5-star prospect with big expectations. He has the ability to make plays that will conjure up memories of Jerramy Stevens (although Middleton isn’t crazy), but they don’t happen often enough. If he ever puts it all together Middleton could be a first round NFL draft pick and a star for the Huskies. For now, he’s just a solid player with a ton of upside.
What Middleton needs to improve on this spring: Blocking, blocking, and more blocking. The main gripe about Middleton is that he’s a liability when the Huskies are running the ball. He has the size to be a good blocker but many reports say that he doesn’t put in the effort and would rather be catching passes. There is no questioning Middleton’s pass catching ability, he might have the best hands on the team, but if he wants to be an NFL caliber tight end his blocking must improve.
Chris Izbicki, 6-3, 232, RS JR. – Izbicki, like Middleton, came to UW as a highly recruited rank. A few off the field issues landed Chris in Tyrone Willingham’s doghouse. Thankfully, he got a fresh start last year and did some nice things. He may not have the star potential that Middleton has but he is very capable of being a good pac-10 tight end. Izbicki is a decent blocker and can turn into a good receiver.
What Izbicki needs to improve on this spring: It seems like you know what you’re getting with Izbicki. He will probably never fulfill the high expectations he had out of high school but he will be a solid contributor. Through this spring Izbicki needs to continue to develop better hands so he won’t be considered a liability during passing downs.
Dorson Boyce, 6-2, 231, SR. – Boyce came into the program last year from junior college and contributed on special teams. He is probably the best blocker out of this tight end group but his receiving skills are suspect. Boyce was brought in to add depth to the position, he may struggle to see playing time at this position.
What Boyce needs to improve on this spring: Boyce doesn’t have the skill set of the other guys but he works hard and is a solid blocker. If he was to improve on his receiving dramatically then he may be in the conversation. I don’t really think he has the ability to catch up to the guys in front of him regardless of what kind of spring he has. But the great thing about this coaching staff is they love competition so if Boyce pushes the guys in front of him to be better than expect to hear Dorson’s name come up.
Marlion Barnett, 6-2, 220, RS FR. – We’ve yet to see Barnett on the field because he red-shirted last year. The coaches seem to like him judging from practice reports and I expect him to become a solid contributor in the years to come. He is supposedly a very capable receiving tight end.
What Barnett needs to improve on this spring: Barnett lacks size for a tight end and blocking pac-10 defensive ends may be a struggle for him. Therefore, putting on weight and working on blocking this spring are essential. If he does this I think he will see some time on the field next year, although it will probably in a limited role.
Overall position: This is a position where the Huskies have a lot of talent but it is under achieving. Unfair expectations may have been put on Izbicki but Middleton definitely has untapped potential. At USC, Sark used his tight ends very effectively and I think Middleton has the capability to become a Fred Davis type player in this offense. Obviously, this would be huge for an offense that already figures to put up quite a few points.
A few random thoughts and links after the jump.
Montlake Madness has a great preview of the game tomorrow. If you haven’t checked it out already, you should do so.
Dave at USSM had an interesting piece today on how the Mariners may have improved their defense but it’s unlikely that their UZR rating will be anywhere last years amazing number.
Bob Condotta reported today that Nick Montana has put on a good deal weight since the end of football season. Montana says he’s up to 6-3, 195 lbs. This is very good news and closer to what a pac-10 quarterback should be. Montana will be participating in spring practices which start next Tuesday.