Position Preview: Tight Ends

Jermichael Finley will be expected to step up big.

The most prolific tight end in the history of Texas football, David Thomas, is gone to the NFL. In the tight end position preview, we look at which players will step in and step up at the position.

Players at the position:

Jermichael Finley, 6-5, 220, Fr-RS
Steven Hogan, 6-5, 255, Jr
Britt Mitchell, 6-5, 250, Fr
Greg Smith, 6-4, 238, Fr
Neale Tweedie, 6-5, 265, Sr
Peter Ullman, 6-4, 252, Soph

Always a key component of the Texas offense, the tight ends will once again factor in heavily for the Horns. There is great depth and potential at the position, but very little in terms of proven commodities.

The biggest question is how will Texas deal with the loss of David Thomas? Thomas, a third round pick of the New England Patriots, led the team is receptions (50) and receiving touchdowns (tied with 5) and was second behind Billy Pittman in receiving yards (613). He was the favorite target for Vince Young and also led the way on the biggest stage, catching ten passes for 88 yards in the Rose Bowl.

Stepping into the starting role will be senior Neale Tweedie, who played in all thirteen games last season. Tweedie saw plenty of time as Texas frequently employed two-tight end sets and had a key touchdown grab against Oklahoma State. But, that was one of only two catches on the year as the 265-pound senior spent most of his time on the field blocking for the Texas backs.

The real potential for play-making on offense will be found in redshirt freshman Jermichael Finley. Finley burst onto the scene in the '06 Spring Game with four spectacular catches for 73 yards and a TD. Listed at 220 pounds, he still has some growing to do and some work to do on his blocking, but speed-wise, he'll outclass almost any linebacker he faces this season. Finley may quickly become a favorite target for the Texas quarterbacks.

Both Peter Ullman and Steve Hogan have seen playing time, but both have also dealt with injuries (Ullman missed the Rose Bowl and then spring practice due to a knee injury and Hogan missed all of '05 and his status for '06 is uncertain) so two true freshmen, spring enrollee Greg Smith and Britt Mitchell, could be in the mix this fall.

Neither freshman was highly ranked coming out of high school, but Smith has solid hands and the benefit of 15 spring practices already under his belt while Mack Brown says Mitchell, who was a teammate of freshman DE Eddie Jones' at Kilgore, has the best blocking he's seen in a tight end. Mitchell is well developed as a blocker and stays on his block the way O-line coaches expect their linemen to (which could point to a future at tackle, a la Tony Hills). Perhaps that, and the injuries mentioned above, are reasons three other tight ends are coming to Texas in the 2007 class.

Monday, July 24: QBs
Tuesday, July 25: RBs
Wednesday, July 26: WRs
Thursday, July 27: TEs
Friday: July 28: OLs

Monday, July 31: DEs
Tuesday, Aug. 1: DTs
Wednesday, Aug. 2: LBs
Thursday, Aug. 3: DBs
Friday, Aug. 4: Special Teams

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