Charlie Strong de-emphasized the tight end position when the former Texas coach opted for an Air Raid offense. Tom Herman immediately went about changing the landscape of the tight ends room with his recent recruiting classes, beginning with signing Lake Travis’ Cade Brewer in 2017, then Malcolm Epps in 2018 and the duo of Jared Wiley and Brayden Liebrock in 2019. Jaden Hullaby, an H-back, signed in 2020.
The Longhorns are ready to rely on the tight end. Texas has a full tight ends room that consists of versatile athletes with varying skill sets. Brewer is a weapon in the red zone and on third down. Epps spent time at wide receiver and can become a mismatch nightmare for defenders. Wiley is an excellent blocker. Liebrock was a four-star porspect who redshirted in 2019.
Texas’ 2021 class consists of 13 members, ranking ninth in the nation and first in the Big 12. The group does lack proven tight ends, however, despite a pair of high-upside options committed. It’s possible that current commitments Juan Davis and Ja’Tavion Sanders migrate to tight end.
Davis looks like a sure-fire former tight end. The three-star from Everman played wide receiver as a sophomore before being tasked with quarterback duties as a junior. His natural position should be tight end, though he’s listed as an athlete by recruiting services. The 6-4, 217-pound all-district performer is the ideal size for a move inside to tight end, though defensive end isn’t completely out of the question.
Sanders is a curious case. The Denton Ryan product is Texas’ lone five-star pledged. He starts at wide receiver and defensive end at Ryan and is considered an athlete by recruiting services. He’s the third-ranked player on the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 and has NFL potential at 6-3 and 220 pounds. Most recruiting experts figure he’ll wind up on defense. People around the Ryan program know he prefers offense. If that remains true, flex tight end or H-back might be his long-term future.
Texas wants to add to its tight ends class with Sanders and Davis not penciled into an exact position. The Longhorns did lose commitments from Lake Travis’ Lake McRee, who is now pledged to USC, and Landen King, who’s headed to Auburn. McRee and King are among the nine tight ends with a UT offer. Only three remain uncommitted:
Thomas Fidone, Council Bluffs, Iowa
FYI: 6-5, 225; four stars; No. 2-ranked tight end
Top schools: Iowa, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska
Texas doesn’t appear to be in the running for the country’s second-best tight end. Fidone is Iowa’s top recruiting priority and it’d be devastating for the Hawkeyes to lose out on such a highly-recruited tight end when Iowa is known for developing NFL talent at that position. Every major program that uses a tight end has extended an offer to Fidone.
Dametrious Crowder, Grandview
FYI: 6-3, 235; four stars; No. 10-ranked tight end
Top schools: Texas A&M, Ohio State, Oregon
Texas A&M is the favorite to land Crowder, who also could play defensive line.
Gunnar Helm, Englewood, Colo.
FYI: 6-5, 225; three stars; No. 26-ranked tight end
Top schools: Auburn, Georgia, Iowa, LSU
Helm’s offer sheet is more impressive than his recruiting ranking. He holds 28 offers and most are from the elite programs in the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12. The Longhorns joined that list on June 9. Helm is a big-bodied tight end who can move. He’s a solid receiver with the right frame to become a dominant blocker. He’s clearly Texas’ top target among the three uncommitted tight ends with an offer, given the timing. Herman wouldn’t have extended another offer at the position if he didn’t want another tight end and if he thought the Longhorns were in great shape with an existing offer.