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 post.
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.