Texas Tech has produced only one great tight end. That would
be Andre Tillman, an All American in 1973, and second round draft choice of the
Miami Dolphins in 1974. Since Tillman’s departure, the pickins
have been slim for Tech at tight end.
Buzz Tatom was a good receiving
tight end in the early 80s, Kevin Sprinkles was decent several years after him,
and James Hadnot would have been a real load at the
position if he hadn’t been converted to running back. Bristol Olomua could have been as good as he wanted to be, but
unfortunately his Tech career was plagued by injury and academic travails and
he never lived up to his potential.
On the whole, it’s been a long drought. But junior Jace Amaro could well be the element needed to inundate Tech’s desiccated tight end
His story is well known to Tech observers. Amaro came out
the San Antonio high school ranks as one of the top-most tight end prospects in
America. After signing with Tech, Amaro had a solid but unspectacular freshman
season. As a sophomore he exploded onto the scene in a dominating performance
against West Virginia, but was felled by an injury in that game and did not
play again until Tech’s bowl game. Now Amaro is an upperclassman and it is do
or die time for the massive tight end. He is completely healthy, full of
confidence, and will be playing in a system well suited to his talents. In
short, Amaro is fully primed to have the monster season his metrics and high
school credentials prophesy. But will that happen?
Will Jace Amaro catch
more or fewer than 70 passes in 2013?
From what we saw of the Red Raiders in the spring, it’s
clear that crossing seam and go routes featuring Amaro and Jakeem Grant deep
down the middle of the field will be a staple of the Tech offense. Indeed, the
defense had seen these plays so often that they covered them very well. And
Kliff Kingsbury confirmed the obvious when he said about Amaro, “Yeah, with a
big tight end who can run like Jace, that’s a matchup we’re gonna
take advantage of very often.”
How often is very often is the question. Tight ends, no
matter how good, simply do not catch as many balls as receivers; their value as
blockers prevents that from happening. Hence, in D1 football last season there
were only three tight ends among the top 100 receivers nationally in total
receiving yards. Tops among them was Stanford’s Zach Ertz
who caught 69 passes for 898 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 13 yards
per grab. Tight end numbers in the Big 12 were far less impressive where
Oklahoma State’s Blake Jackson, who hauled in 29 passes for 598 yards, was the
ringleader. Thus, if Amaro eclipses 70 receptions he will have beaten the top
tight end numbers in college football last season as well as more than doubling
Jackson’s Big 12-leading mark in 2013.
Raw talent notwithstanding, there are a couple of factors
working against Amaro. First is Tech’s obvious upheaval at the quarterback
position. With presumptive starter Michael Brewer out indefinitely, the freshman
duo of Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield will have to toe the line. Either could be
an instant phenom like Johnny Manziel, but such is
unlikely. And any shakiness at quarterback will mean more uncatchable passes,
fewer long drives, and quite possibly increased reliance on the ground game.
Then there is the general talent Tech has in the receiving
corps. Eric Ward is an All American candidate, Jakeem Grant represents speed in
spades, and Bradley Marquez looks to be the reliable go-to possession receiver.
There just may not be enough receiving opportunities for any single receiver to
catch more than 70 passes.
Jace Amaro may well
be the best tight end in college football. And his blocking prowess combined
with his catching could well vault him to All America honors in 2013. But be
that as it may, it is doubtful that Amaro will catch more than 70 passes this coming season.