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Minnesota Football 2017 Preview: Tight End Upgrade / Downgrade

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A healthy Brandon Lingen? Yes please!

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The tight ends were a group that was largely missing from box scores throughout 2016. Brandon Lingen came into the season with decently high expectations following his very nice sophomore season. But he was mostly injured and the tight ends became mostly a group dedicated to pass protection and run blocking.

2016

Starter: Nate Wozniak, Brandon Lingen
Depth: Colton Beebe, Bryce Witham, Nick Hart

In the receiving game it was Nate Wozniak who had the most significant impact out of this group. His 13 receptions were more than the next the other 4 guys combined, which is really saying more about how little the others contributed in the passing game that it is about how much Wozniak did. He’s a huge kid out there, it isn’t very often you see a 6’10” football player on the field.

Brandon Lingen was poised to have a really nice junior season after having 33 receptions in 2015. But injuries derailed his junior year and he finished with just 3 catches, playing in just three games.

Beebe started 8 games, playing in 12 and was a solid TE, particularly in the ground game. Witham participated in 8 games. And Hart saw action in 5 games, making 1 catch.

2017

Starter: Brandon Lingen, Nate Wozniak
Depth: Colton Beebe, Bryce Witham, Nick Hart
Freshmen: Jake Paulson, Nate Umlor

Much like the running backs, this group is basically the same as it was a year ago. Lingen is now healthy and garnering some attention on the preseason Mackey Award list for the nation’s top tight end. He could very easily to his 2015 totals of 33 catches and 3 touchdowns. He’s been named one of the team captains and the only thing keeping him from being a major contributor to the offense is health.

Wozniak? He should be relatively the same. A year older, a year stronger and hopefully incrementally better. His athleticism and incredible height gives him something unique on the football field that the prior staff never seemed to try and utilize. It will be interesting to see if the new staff attempts to take advantage of Wozniak’s 6’10” frame around the goal line.

Beebe is a stud. You’ll rarely see him in the box score, but he’s tough and an excellent blocker. The run game greatly benefits from him being on the field. Backing him up is likely to be Ko Kieft, a redshirt freshman who also brings similar toughness to the position.

Jake Paulson and Nate Umlor are your true freshmen and I’d be surprised to see him contributing all that much. Nate Brusch is being moved to OG.

Upgrade/Downgrade

A healthy Lingen makes this position group a dramatic upgrade from a year ago. It’s not even close. I’m a huge fan of Beebe, I think Kieft will be similarly good in the run game and Wozniak is a unique player. This group is an upgrade in my opinion.

Poll

Tight Ends will be...

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Upgrade - Healthy Lingen makes this one easy
    (302 votes)
  • 1%
    Downgrade - It is possible
    (4 votes)
  • 14%
    Neutral - Let’s not assume good-health just yet
    (50 votes)
356 votes total Vote Now