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Weekly Position Discussion: Week 7, TE's and Special Teams

BWahlberg

Well-known member
DONOR
Can you start to feel it? Fall camp is almost here! We’re about 3 weeks out from the start of fall camp and I’ve got 3 (well 4 technically) more position discussions to post, OL, DL, TEs, ST. I think due to each position being a little smaller on personnel , I’ll lump ST and TEs together. These two positions carry a lot of unknown so let’s jump into it.

We’ll start with the Tight Ends, a position that just lost a 2-time 1st team all conference player in Greg Hardy.

TE: Clay Pierson, Aschan Richards, Jonathan Richards, Gavin Hagfors, Jordan Harper, Mike Ralston, Connor Sprunk, Noah Scarver

projected depth

Starter: Clay Pierson (Senior)
Backup: Aschan Richards (Soph), Gavin Hagfors (Soph)
Depth: Jonathan Richards (Soph), Jordan Harper (Frosh)
Red-Shirt: Cooper Sprunk (Frosh), Noah Scarver (Frosh), Mike Ralston )Frosh)

Strengths and Weaknesses

Clay Pierson – Clay looked much improved as a pass-catcher in spring camp. Jordy Johnson liked to target him especially as a safe and short throw when the deeper options are covered. Clay is a big and physical guy, he might be the best blocker of the TEs as well. He’s not as flashy as Hardy and Middleton are/were but he’s a hard worker, a good blocker, and his catching has been improving.

Aschan Richards – Aschan has the physical presence to be a dominant TE, he’s 6-6 and about 230 pounds. He runs quick and his catching is good. Where I’ve not seen much from him is in his blocking and when he gets tightly covered he vanishes. In the past it seemed as if he was playing too passive. We keep hearing/hoping Aschan is ready for an increased role, now is his chance.

Gavin Hagfors – Gavin is listed as both TE and FB, he lacks the height to be a big pass-catching TE however he’s got sure hands and blocks pretty well. Last season he was used a bit for protection and had some receptions as well. I could see Hagfors being used in a twin-TE set this year a bunch.

Johnathan Richards – He’s making the switch from OLB to TE, spring camp was ok for him. His catching wasn’t really there but if you look at Clay Pierson it took him a good year to adapt/ramp up to switching sides of the field. I think this year might be mostly ST duty and some blocking duty for Johnathan.

Jordan Harper – With apologies to Jordan I don’t recall much from him in spring camp. I recall an article that he was sidelined with “other issues” at one point. He might be staring at a red-shirt if he can take one. We’ll have to see in fall camp.

Mike Ralston – Of all four freshman on the roster Mike might have the best chance to see the field and become a factor this season. Fall camp will tell us if he’s ready but this two star recruit had a very nice looking highlight reel and he’s already at the right size, 6-6 and about 245. He could be a good blocker right away and if he can adapt to the speed of FCS he might become a pass-catching option

Noah Scarver – Another guy who has a shot to play if others ahead of him falter or get dinged up. Scarver is another impressive looking new player coming to the team. His scout.com profile lists his senior year weight at 210, gogriz.com lists him at 234. He’s getting up to a better size/weight for the position.

Cooper Sprunk – A walk-on TE, I’ve not seen much film on Cooper. However I’d put him in the same boat as Ralston and Scarver – if he can impress this fall he might land a roster spot and not get a red-shirt. Although I see he’s listed at 215, a little light for a TE.

OK now let’s talk some special teams:

Projected Depth

K: Chris Lider (Soph) or Harrison Greenberg (Frosh)
Depth: Ben Worst (Frosh)

P: Stephen Shaw (Soph)

KR/PR: Ellis Henderson (Soph), Chase Naccarato (Soph), Jordan Canada (Junior), Taylor Walcott (Soph)

Short Snaps: Tonga Takai (Junior)

Long Snaps: Jordan Tripp (Senior) / Aaron Held (Frosh)

Holder: Cam Warren (Senior)

Strengths/Weaknesses

Chris Lider – Chris I will assume regardless of if he’s place kicker I assume will handle kickoffs. He’s shown that he’s got the more powerful leg overall. Chris showed us last year he can kick the threads off the ball but he’s had major accuracy issues. In many games you could see the misses coming, App St as a prime example when you could see he started pulling kicks more and more and finally shanked and missed a crucial PAT late. The MSU game also comes to mind. Chris wins the kicker job if he comes to camp showing vastly improved accuracy.

Harrison Greenberg – Harrison started getting more and more reps in spring camp per the Missoulian reports but come the scrimmages he didn’t get a lot of chances. What I’ve seen from Harrison has been more of a leg strength issue than an accuracy issue. If Harrison shows up to fall camp with a stronger and higher kick the kicking position battle could get interesting. If Lider continues to show accuracy issues as well then this could become a toss-up position.

Ben Worst – Listed on the roster, I’ve not even heard of this guy so we’ll have to see.

Stephen Shaw – Not much to knock this guy on, he was a very good punter this year and in spring camp he showed off even higher and more angled/directed punts that pin the ball deep. With a team that’s going to be running a lot this year field position is key. Having a strong punter like Shaw that can pin teams deep with be invaluable.

Tonga Takai / Cam Warren – I hope like heck these two have been working on their short-snap routines. It was not pretty in spring camp. Add in I don’t like the idea of a starting DT being out short snapper, I think a backup center is better suited, if Takai gets hurt I don’t know who is short-snapper backup is.

Jordan Tripp / Aaron Held – Tripp is a stud long-snapper, Held’s snaps were a lot lighter and not as accurate but he’s a freshman I’m assuming they’re ramping up for the job.

Canada / Henderson / Naccarato / Walcott – Haven’t seen much from these guys of late as returners. I know last year Canada and Henderson had real issues fielding punts cleanly. And we saw Naccarato get his introduction to being an FCS KR in the App St game. I’m assuming another year down the road and these guys will be improved.
 
So, no real new news on Curtis White, yet?

http://www.gogriz.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/curtis_white_844763.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
 
Worst must have slipped under the radar for the Missoula media. He's a preferred walk-on.

Twin Falls Kicker Ben Worst Commits to Montana
By David Bashore, February 27, 2013
http://magicvalley.com/sports/local...cle_93f8bc32-8165-11e2-953b-0019bb2963f4.html

“Montana’s been at the top of my list the whole time. Football is like a religion up there, and they said if I proved myself I have the chance to get a starting position (as a freshman).” —Ben Worst

Worst, who hit career-long field goals of 52 yards twice as a Bruin, said he also had a preferred walk-on offer from UTEP and a scholarship offer from Carroll College. But he’s headed to Missoula, where he’ll join older sister Madi, who’s on a track scholarship.
 
WyomingGrizFan said:
So, no real new news on Curtis White, yet?

http://www.gogriz.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/curtis_white_844763.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

He's not on the current online roster and rumor posted here were both injury and academic issues.
 
It's a very high probability that Ralston and/or Scarver do not redshirt. The new roster says as much. Ralston and Strahm arrived in Missoula a little over a week ago to begin workouts with the team. Scarver is at 240 lbs now. Two 6'6" TEs at 240+ Will be nice targets for JJ. I'm excited to see how these 2 do in fall camp.
 
Clay Pierson (Senior), Richards (Soph) and Hagfors (Soph) sould provide us with plenty of true TEs. If we hacve two 240lb TEs then you can have a heck of a 3 Tight package. I wonder if coaches give any thought to using Mitch Saylor as a TE in special sets. It would allow more of JJs valued targets to be on the field at the same time if he did. Especially in passing downs & early down combos. Also, could the Boise State transfer also be in line for a similar role?

Go Griz
 
Hard to run a 12 personnel pro style set without at least two very competent tight ends. That's a pretty green bunch. Let's hope White is healthy and gets to play.
Ball catching skills are great to talk about, but these guys need to effectively overload a side and block.
 
Are we actually going to utilize our tight ends this year??? It would be nice to punish the other teams db's for a while so it opens up both the run and the pass a little. Let's hope Lider can follow in previous kickers tracks and improve greatly for the upcoming season.
 
dupuyer griz said:
Are we actually going to utilize our tight ends this year???

Considering we've all been saying that since egriz started as a website, now 4 coaches later... I'd say no, haha.
 
BWahlberg said:
Can you start to feel it? Fall camp is almost here! We’re about 3 weeks out from the start of fall camp and I’ve got 3 (well 4 technically) more position discussions to post, OL, DL, TEs, ST. I think due to each position being a little smaller on personnel , I’ll lump ST and TEs together. These two positions carry a lot of unknown so let’s jump into it.

We’ll start with the Tight Ends, a position that just lost a 2-time 1st team all conference player in Greg Hardy.

TE: Clay Pierson, Ashcan Richards, Jonathan Richards, Gavin Hagfors, Jordan Harper, Mike Ralston, Connor Sprunk, Noah Scarver


Nice
 
oGriz said:
Worst must have slipped under the radar for the Missoula media. He's a preferred walk-on.

Twin Falls Kicker Ben Worst Commits to Montana
By David Bashore, February 27, 2013
http://magicvalley.com/sports/local...cle_93f8bc32-8165-11e2-953b-0019bb2963f4.html

“Montana’s been at the top of my list the whole time. Football is like a religion up there, and they said if I proved myself I have the chance to get a starting position (as a freshman).” —Ben Worst

Worst, who hit career-long field goals of 52 yards twice as a Bruin, said he also had a preferred walk-on offer from UTEP and a scholarship offer from Carroll College. But he’s headed to Missoula, where he’ll join older sister Madi, who’s on a track scholarship.


Thanks O. Worst (a rather unfortunate name for a player), looks like he might be the real deal. I like that he practiced kicking into college sized uprights in high school. That is a major adjustment, and already being comfortable with the smaller goals can only help.
 
grizindabox said:
BWahlberg said:
Can you start to feel it? Fall camp is almost here! We’re about 3 weeks out from the start of fall camp and I’ve got 3 (well 4 technically) more position discussions to post, OL, DL, TEs, ST. I think due to each position being a little smaller on personnel , I’ll lump ST and TEs together. These two positions carry a lot of unknown so let’s jump into it.

We’ll start with the Tight Ends, a position that just lost a 2-time 1st team all conference player in Greg Hardy.

TE: Clay Pierson, Ashcan Richards, Jonathan Richards, Gavin Hagfors, Jordan Harper, Mike Ralston, Connor Sprunk, Noah Scarver

Nice

:oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops:

My bad, corrected them all in the original post I believe.
 
gah-riz said:
It's a very high probability that Ralston and/or Scarver do not redshirt. The new roster says as much. Ralston and Strahm arrived in Missoula a little over a week ago to begin workouts with the team. Scarver is at 240 lbs now. Two 6'6" TEs at 240+ Will be nice targets for JJ. I'm excited to see how these 2 do in fall camp.

I am with gah-riz. The plan for Ralston and Scarver is to play this up-coming season. Delaney said they are going to use four tightends, and Ralston and Scarver are two of them.

I agree with this decision. The Griz are in need at that position. Good thing Ralston and Scarver are both big and very athletic. I'm excited about them.

If teams try to cover Aschan Richards, Mike Ralston, or Noah Scarver with a linebacker, they will pay for that decision. They would be better to bring in their dime package (switch out the linebacker with a DB), but then we could just run on them...lol...I love it!
 
IntuitiveGriz said:
gah-riz said:
It's a very high probability that Ralston and/or Scarver do not redshirt. The new roster says as much. Ralston and Strahm arrived in Missoula a little over a week ago to begin workouts with the team. Scarver is at 240 lbs now. Two 6'6" TEs at 240+ Will be nice targets for JJ. I'm excited to see how these 2 do in fall camp.

I am with gah-riz. The plan for Ralston and Scarver is to play this up-coming season. Delaney said they are going to use four tightends, and Ralston and Scarver are two of them.

I agree with this decision. The Griz are in need at that position. Good thing Ralston and Scarver are both big and very athletic. I'm excited about them.

If teams try to cover Aschan Richards, Mike Ralston, or Noah Scarver with a linebacker, they will pay for that decision. They would be better to bring in their dime package (switch out the linebacker with a DB), but then we could just run on them...lol...I love it!

A big reason why Ralston turned down an offer from San Diego State University to play for Montana was he knew he'd have a better chance to compete for playing time right away as opposed to sitting...
 
August 02, 2013 12:00 pm • By Greg Rachac
NOTE: This is the sixth installment of our weekly series projecting the Top 10 players at each position for the 2013 Big Sky Conference football season.

Certainly, as the Oregon Ducks-style spread option offense continues to mark the trends in college football, the classic tight end -- the slower, big-bodied, possession-and-blocking type -- isn't utilized like he once was. Instead, a faster, hybrid version has taken root in many programs, and the Big Sky Conference boasts its share also.

The players on my list of the top tight ends in the league for the upcoming season haven't put up huge statistics, they haven't dominated games and they haven't made anybody forget about Shannon Sharpe or Tony Gonzalez. But there's still plenty of potential for big things. Have a read:

TOP 10 TIGHT ENDS FOR 2013

1. TAYLOR SLOAT, SR., UC DAVIS 2012: 30 rec, 428 yds, 14.3 avg, 2 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Sloat ranked second at UC Davis last season in catches and receiving yards, and will be a major threat this year too. The Aggies haven't aired it out too much in recent years -- they were a fairly balanced run/pass outfit under former coach Bob Biggs -- but looked to Sloat when they did. New coach Ron Gould is a running game type guy, too, having coordinated the ground attack at Cal. Sloat's touchdown catch late in the game against Sacramento State gave UC Davis the winning points, and he had seven catches for 108 yards in that game. Expect more of that in 2013.

2. R.J. RICKERT, JR., NORTHERN ARIZONA 2012: 27 rec, 272 yds, 10.1 avg, 3 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: The media liked Rickert enough to make him its tight end selection on the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team, and why not? Rickert made at least one catch in every game he played last season, and enters 2013 off a stellar finale against Cal Poly a year ago when he made eight grabs for 66 yards. Rickert is a reliable pass catcher, but he's also a solid blocker for the league's top running back (Zach Bauman). As the Lumberjacks get ready to break in a new quarterback to replace Cary Grossart, Rickert will be an even bigger asset this season.

3. ZACK GEHRING, SR., EASTERN WASHINGTON 2012: 7 rec, 75 yds, 10.7 yds, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: For as much as the Eagles sling the ball around the field -- Eastern Washington had 307 completions last year, sixth-most in the FCS -- Gehring could have had more touches. But with receivers Brandon Kaufman, Nicolas Edwards and Greg Herd now gone, Gehring might fit more in the pass-game picture this year. Gehring looks to become an important safety valve for multi-dimensional quarterback Vernon Adams, who played great last season as a redshirt freshman. Gehring is no stranger to experience, having started in 21 career games.

4. CLAY PIERSON, SR., MONTANA 2012: 2 rec, 34 yds, 17.0 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Traditional use of the tight end will again be a big part of the Grizzlies' offense this year as coordinators Kefense Hynson and Scott Gragg utilize a shorter passing game and conventional, pro-style sets. And Pierson figures to be a big winner in this scenario. Pierson switched over to tight end last year after spending time at different spots on defense, and the coaches like what he brings. With Greg Hardy graduated and with Oregon transfer Curtis White no longer on the roster, Pierson, a Twin Bridges product, should get many opportunities to catch the ball this year.

5. TYLER WRIGHT, SO., IDAHO STATE 2012: 4 rec, 37 yds, 9.2 avg, 0 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Last year, senior Josh Hill led all Big Sky tight ends with 70 catches. Hill's eligibility is up (so is record-breaking WR Rodrick Rumble's), and Wright looks like a good candidate to become a bigger weapon in the Bengals' throw-the-ball-on-every-snap offense. Too high of expectations? Maybe. But somebody's going to fill that role. And it might as well be Wright, who made a handful of plays last year. Wright is only a sophomore, but he's the best option the Bengals have on their roster right now. Still, he's got work to do to produce like Hill did. He'll give it a shot in 2013.

6. TIAI SALANOA, JR., MONTANA STATE 2012: 11 rec, 89 yds, 8.1 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: When healthy, Salanoa is a pretty important guy in the Bobcats' passing game. But that's the only problem -- the caveat, "When healthy, ... ." If Salanoa can stay on the field, quarterback DeNarius McGhee will find him. Salanoa is a big target and is really athletic. He can run, and he possesses good hands. With Salanoa injured the last half of 2012, Lee Perkins became a much bigger part of the offense late in the season in 2012 and into the playoffs. But the thinking here is that Salanoa can stay healthy. If so, he'll produce, especially in the red zone.

7. AUSTIN WILBERS, SR., NORTHERN COLORADO 2012: 13 rec, 101 yds, 7.8 avg, 0 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: The most pleasant surprise of the 2012 season in the Big Sky might have been Northern Colorado. The Bears went 5-6 and closed the year on a three-game winning streak. The offense was more efficient. Among QB Seth Lobato's targets this season will again be Wilbers, who quietly went about his business to help UNC improve. If nothing else, he was consistent. He made three catches in a game three different times. Wilbers prepped at a top high school (Cherry Creek in Denver's Greenwood Village) so he knows how to play the game the right way.

8. CHRIS BROADNAX, JR., SACRAMENTO STATE 2012: 12 rec, 150 yds, 12.5 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Broadnax's initiation as a full-time tight end last year produced his biggest moment -- a 35-yard touchdown catch that helped the Hornets upset Pac-12 Colorado last September. Broadnax, who finished with five catches in that game, kept it up from there. And if he hadn't missed four straight games late in the year due to injury, his numbers would have been better. Broadnax and D.J. Maciel are Sac State's top tight ends. QB Garrett Safron hopes to prove his success last year was no fluke, and Broadnax will be included again among his options.

9. HAYDEN PLINKE, SO., PORTLAND STATE 2012 (at Boise State): 2 rec, 20 yds, 10.0 avg, 0 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Anyone who's played in Boise State's offense, if even sparingly, is a talent. Plinke spent a year at BSU, but has since transferred to Portland State, where coach Nigel Burton says he and his coaching staff can utilize Plinke's athleticism right away, almost in the mold of former Vikings star and current Denver Bronco Julius Thomas. Burton and Co. recruited Plinke out of high school, so they know what he has to offer. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 260 pounds, Plinke might have the biggest upside of any tight end in the Big Sky.

10. DREW EMANUEL, SR., NORTHERN ARIZONA 2012: 8 rec, 140 yds, 17.5 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: This will be Emanuel's fourth year playing under coach Jerome Souers, and last season he earned an all-conference nod. Emanuel has the kind of size (6-4, 252 pounds) that makes him a very big and very important target in the Lumberjacks' short passing game. But he's also a downfield threat, having averaged 17.5 yards per catch a year ago. And that's great for a tight end. Blocking is also a key (as noted above with NAU teammate Rickert) in NAU's vaunted, straight-ahead running game spearheaded by Zach Bauman.


*** NATIONAL NO. 1: A.C. LEONARD, JR., TENNESSEE STATE. Physically, Leonard is a freak. A major talent who dropped down to the FCS from the University of Florida prior to the 2012 season, Leonard (standing 6-4 and weighing nearly 250 pounds) made 51 catches for 733 yards and 6 TDs for the Tigers last year. He was named to three All-America teams in 2012, and he should be in line for a number of awards and honors again as a junior.


Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/sports/college/blogs/catgrizinsider/big-sky-position-rankings-tight-ends/article_c1c2e666-f716-11e2-bfd3-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz2bblBCnlM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
 
BigPawzSharpClawz said:
August 02, 2013 12:00 pm • By Greg Rachac
NOTE: This is the sixth installment of our weekly series projecting the Top 10 players at each position for the 2013 Big Sky Conference football season.

Certainly, as the Oregon Ducks-style spread option offense continues to mark the trends in college football, the classic tight end -- the slower, big-bodied, possession-and-blocking type -- isn't utilized like he once was. Instead, a faster, hybrid version has taken root in many programs, and the Big Sky Conference boasts its share also.

The players on my list of the top tight ends in the league for the upcoming season haven't put up huge statistics, they haven't dominated games and they haven't made anybody forget about Shannon Sharpe or Tony Gonzalez. But there's still plenty of potential for big things. Have a read:

TOP 10 TIGHT ENDS FOR 2013

1. TAYLOR SLOAT, SR., UC DAVIS 2012: 30 rec, 428 yds, 14.3 avg, 2 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Sloat ranked second at UC Davis last season in catches and receiving yards, and will be a major threat this year too. The Aggies haven't aired it out too much in recent years -- they were a fairly balanced run/pass outfit under former coach Bob Biggs -- but looked to Sloat when they did. New coach Ron Gould is a running game type guy, too, having coordinated the ground attack at Cal. Sloat's touchdown catch late in the game against Sacramento State gave UC Davis the winning points, and he had seven catches for 108 yards in that game. Expect more of that in 2013.

2. R.J. RICKERT, JR., NORTHERN ARIZONA 2012: 27 rec, 272 yds, 10.1 avg, 3 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: The media liked Rickert enough to make him its tight end selection on the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team, and why not? Rickert made at least one catch in every game he played last season, and enters 2013 off a stellar finale against Cal Poly a year ago when he made eight grabs for 66 yards. Rickert is a reliable pass catcher, but he's also a solid blocker for the league's top running back (Zach Bauman). As the Lumberjacks get ready to break in a new quarterback to replace Cary Grossart, Rickert will be an even bigger asset this season.

3. ZACK GEHRING, SR., EASTERN WASHINGTON 2012: 7 rec, 75 yds, 10.7 yds, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: For as much as the Eagles sling the ball around the field -- Eastern Washington had 307 completions last year, sixth-most in the FCS -- Gehring could have had more touches. But with receivers Brandon Kaufman, Nicolas Edwards and Greg Herd now gone, Gehring might fit more in the pass-game picture this year. Gehring looks to become an important safety valve for multi-dimensional quarterback Vernon Adams, who played great last season as a redshirt freshman. Gehring is no stranger to experience, having started in 21 career games.

4. CLAY PIERSON, SR., MONTANA 2012: 2 rec, 34 yds, 17.0 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Traditional use of the tight end will again be a big part of the Grizzlies' offense this year as coordinators Kefense Hynson and Scott Gragg utilize a shorter passing game and conventional, pro-style sets. And Pierson figures to be a big winner in this scenario. Pierson switched over to tight end last year after spending time at different spots on defense, and the coaches like what he brings. With Greg Hardy graduated and with Oregon transfer Curtis White no longer on the roster, Pierson, a Twin Bridges product, should get many opportunities to catch the ball this year.

5. TYLER WRIGHT, SO., IDAHO STATE 2012: 4 rec, 37 yds, 9.2 avg, 0 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Last year, senior Josh Hill led all Big Sky tight ends with 70 catches. Hill's eligibility is up (so is record-breaking WR Rodrick Rumble's), and Wright looks like a good candidate to become a bigger weapon in the Bengals' throw-the-ball-on-every-snap offense. Too high of expectations? Maybe. But somebody's going to fill that role. And it might as well be Wright, who made a handful of plays last year. Wright is only a sophomore, but he's the best option the Bengals have on their roster right now. Still, he's got work to do to produce like Hill did. He'll give it a shot in 2013.

6. TIAI SALANOA, JR., MONTANA STATE 2012: 11 rec, 89 yds, 8.1 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: When healthy, Salanoa is a pretty important guy in the Bobcats' passing game. But that's the only problem -- the caveat, "When healthy, ... ." If Salanoa can stay on the field, quarterback DeNarius McGhee will find him. Salanoa is a big target and is really athletic. He can run, and he possesses good hands. With Salanoa injured the last half of 2012, Lee Perkins became a much bigger part of the offense late in the season in 2012 and into the playoffs. But the thinking here is that Salanoa can stay healthy. If so, he'll produce, especially in the red zone.

7. AUSTIN WILBERS, SR., NORTHERN COLORADO 2012: 13 rec, 101 yds, 7.8 avg, 0 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: The most pleasant surprise of the 2012 season in the Big Sky might have been Northern Colorado. The Bears went 5-6 and closed the year on a three-game winning streak. The offense was more efficient. Among QB Seth Lobato's targets this season will again be Wilbers, who quietly went about his business to help UNC improve. If nothing else, he was consistent. He made three catches in a game three different times. Wilbers prepped at a top high school (Cherry Creek in Denver's Greenwood Village) so he knows how to play the game the right way.

8. CHRIS BROADNAX, JR., SACRAMENTO STATE 2012: 12 rec, 150 yds, 12.5 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Broadnax's initiation as a full-time tight end last year produced his biggest moment -- a 35-yard touchdown catch that helped the Hornets upset Pac-12 Colorado last September. Broadnax, who finished with five catches in that game, kept it up from there. And if he hadn't missed four straight games late in the year due to injury, his numbers would have been better. Broadnax and D.J. Maciel are Sac State's top tight ends. QB Garrett Safron hopes to prove his success last year was no fluke, and Broadnax will be included again among his options.

9. HAYDEN PLINKE, SO., PORTLAND STATE 2012 (at Boise State): 2 rec, 20 yds, 10.0 avg, 0 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Anyone who's played in Boise State's offense, if even sparingly, is a talent. Plinke spent a year at BSU, but has since transferred to Portland State, where coach Nigel Burton says he and his coaching staff can utilize Plinke's athleticism right away, almost in the mold of former Vikings star and current Denver Bronco Julius Thomas. Burton and Co. recruited Plinke out of high school, so they know what he has to offer. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 260 pounds, Plinke might have the biggest upside of any tight end in the Big Sky.

10. DREW EMANUEL, SR., NORTHERN ARIZONA 2012: 8 rec, 140 yds, 17.5 avg, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: This will be Emanuel's fourth year playing under coach Jerome Souers, and last season he earned an all-conference nod. Emanuel has the kind of size (6-4, 252 pounds) that makes him a very big and very important target in the Lumberjacks' short passing game. But he's also a downfield threat, having averaged 17.5 yards per catch a year ago. And that's great for a tight end. Blocking is also a key (as noted above with NAU teammate Rickert) in NAU's vaunted, straight-ahead running game spearheaded by Zach Bauman.


*** NATIONAL NO. 1: A.C. LEONARD, JR., TENNESSEE STATE. Physically, Leonard is a freak. A major talent who dropped down to the FCS from the University of Florida prior to the 2012 season, Leonard (standing 6-4 and weighing nearly 250 pounds) made 51 catches for 733 yards and 6 TDs for the Tigers last year. He was named to three All-America teams in 2012, and he should be in line for a number of awards and honors again as a junior.


Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/sports/college/blogs/catgrizinsider/big-sky-position-rankings-tight-ends/article_c1c2e666-f716-11e2-bfd3-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz2bblBCnlM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

TOP 10 SPECIAL TEAMERS FOR 2013

1. CHRIS NICHOLLS, KR/PR, SR., CAL POLY 2012: 22 KR, 24.0 avg, 54 long; 19 PR, 8.5 avg, 27 long. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Nicholls is the only returning player in the Big Sky to have ranked in the top five in BOTH kickoff and punt returns. Following in the footsteps of previous Cal Poly return men Mark Rodgers and Asa Jackson (the latter of which now returns punts for the Baltimore Ravens), Nicholls works wonders for the Mustangs. Coach Tim Walsh has lauded Nicholls' instincts, and for a small guy (he's just 5-8, 175 pounds) that's important. Nicholls sees his lanes and finds openings, and he accelerates through them.

2. SHAQUILLE HILL, KR, SO., EASTERN WASHINGTON 2012: 34 KR, 26.8 avg, 99 long, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Another "little man," Hill burst on the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2012, ranking third in the Big Sky in kickoff return average. The 5-10, 180-pound Hill took a kick back 99-yards in a blowout win over North Dakota last season (and should have had a 93-yarder in a playoff win over Illinois State), but perhaps he's just scratched the surface. A backup returner at the start of last season, Shaq (as he's called) finished the year as a first-team selection to the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America team.

3. ANDY WILDER, K/P, SR., NORTHERN ARIZONA 2012: 10-13 FG, 38 long, 38-39 PAT, 68 pts; 61 punts, 46.3 avg, 19 inside-20, 25 plus-50. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Wilder wasn't just the best punter in the Big Sky last year, he was arguably the best in the FCS. As I mentioned above, the All-American led nation in net punting average, and put 19 punts inside the 20. The starting field position for NAU's opponents was their own 27 yard line, and there's no doubt Wilder influenced that respectable statistic. There also no doubt it helped the Lumberjacks win eight straight games and have a chance to make the playoffs. Wilder is also a reliable field goal guy.

4. SHAWN JOHNSON, PR, JR., MONTANA STATE 2012: 25 PR, 8.8 avg, 72 long, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: A lot of times, it's either feast or famine when Johnson has the ball. He's had fumbling issues in the past, but he really came of age last year as a punt returner. His 8.8-yard punt return average was ranked fourth in the Big Sky last year, and he fielded more punts (25) than anybody in the league. Johnson, a running back by trade, will probably figure more prominently into the Bobcats' running game this season, but he'll still be a formidable special teams weapon. When he gets into the open field, nobody catches him. Just ask Portland State.

5. GREG HARDIN, KR, NORTH DAKOTA 2012: 16 KR, 31.6 avg, 98 long, 1 TD. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Hardin is more well-known as the top wideout in the Big Sky (spoiler alert), but he also gives North Dakota a huge advantage in the kickoff return game. The speedy Hardin not only led the league in kickoff return average last year, but also was ranked No. 1 in all-purpose yardage (151.6 per game). Hardin's 98-yard kickoff return for a TD against Southern Utah last November helped ignite a UND rally that erased a 15-point deficit and led to a 33-29 victory. Hardin should again be one of the most resourceful players in the Big Sky, both on offense and special teams.

6. COLTON COOK, K, SR., SOUTHERN UTAH 2012: 19-22 FG, 49 long, 30-33 PAT, 87 pts. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Cook's accuracy is what stands out. His 86-percent success rate last season was among the nation's leaders, and the only tries he missed were between 40-49 yards. He's hit two game-winners in his career, including a 36-yarder with three seconds left that stunned Eastern Washington last October, a 30-27 victory. Cook will try to build of last year's second-team All-Big Sky nod, a season in which he also earned second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and College Sporting News. All around, he's solid.

7. SHEA WALKER, ST, JR., NORTH DAKOTA 2012: 3 blocked kicks. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: North Dakota has been one of the best kick-blocking teams in the FCS over the course of the last two seasons, and Walker is the main reason. He blocked three last season -- at Sacramento State, at Eastern Washington and at Montana State. In all, Walker has swatted away five field goals in his career, making him one of the nation's active leaders. And he's only a junior. The 6-foot-1, 299-pound Walker is projected to be UND's starting center in 2013, but he's also an unheralded game-changer on special teams, one of the best in the country.

8. RORY PEREZ, K/P, SR., MONTANA STATE 2012: 17-21 FG, 48 long, 44-48 PAT, 95 points; 48 punts, 40.8 avg, 16 inside-20, 8 plus-50. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: MSU's reigning special teams MVP, Perez does double-duty with kicking and punting. And he's solid in both areas. Perez ranked second in the league among kickers with 95 points last year. Perez was the unsung hero of MSU's 16-7 victory over rival Montana, going 3-for-3 on field goals and dropping four punts inside UM's 20. Of his 17 field goals made a year ago, seven of them were from 40 yards out or longer. Perez's punting skills are his forte, though, and he'll be very good again.

9. STEPHEN SHAW, P, SO., MONTANA 2012: 54 punts, 41.8 avg, 23 inside-20, 11 plus-50. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: Griz coach Mick Delaney said this spring that he has high hopes for Shaw, and he should. The big-bodied Shaw (he weighed 260 pounds in 2012) showed off his booming leg on many instances as a freshman last season. I always notice Shaw's hang time, which last year allowed him to force 19 fair catches. The Grizzlies improved a lot on special teams last season, and with Shaw as their punter, they should continue on that path. Keep an eye on UM kicker Chris Lider, and the return game too. Replacing game-breaking PR Peter Nguyen won't be easy.

10. ZEB MILLER, K, SR., NORTH DAKOTA 2012: 12-14 FG, 50 long, 42-43 PAT, 78 pts. THE BUZZ FOR 2013: I know what you're thinking: Three North Dakota special teamers in the Top 10? But Miller might have the strongest leg of any kicker in the Big Sky, evidenced by the 54-yarder he hit two years ago to beat Northern Colorado in 2011 and the 50-yarder he nailed in a win over Portland State last season. Miller's reliability is also unquestioned. He's made 22 of 24 field goals inside 40 yards in his career (92 percent). He comes into the new year on a roll, having made his last seven field goal attempts last season.

*** NATIONAL NO. 1: FABIAN TRUSS, KR, SR., SAMFORD. Truss is one of the top running backs in the Southern Conference, but entering 2013 he is also the nation's active career leader in kickoff return average -- a staggering 28.3 yards on 62 returns with a pair of TDs.


Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/sports/college/blogs/catgrizinsider/big-sky-position-rankings-special-teams/article_88082d30-b82f-11e2-858a-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz2bbo9DnC3" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
 
Rachac is out of his mind! Anyone that can state that the Grizzlies improved a lot on special teams last year simply was not paying attention.
 
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