Recruiting: Top Tight Ends

Aug. 19, 2005

By Tom Lemming

Special to


1. Konrad Reuland, Mission (Calif.), 6-6, 240 lbs., 4.7 (40-yard dash)


The California product is not only a great tight end but also a great athlete. With top-notch blocking skills and soft hands, Reuland plays the position to perfection. Given his considerable size, he's more like a tackle who can catch. He caught 47 passes for 800 yards and seven touchdowns last season, grading out at close to 90 percent in his blocking assignments. During the winter, he averaged 10 points and 10 boards as a center for Mission's basketball team. Reuland has already received offers from more than 30 schools -- including every Pac-10 school -- and is talking to Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Florida.


2. Nate Byham, Franklin Area (Pa.), 6-5, 215 lbs., 4.6


The nation's second-ranked tight end (and No. 1 prospect in the East) is the complete opposite of Reuland -- he's a wide receiver in a tight end's body. The best in the country at his position as far as catching and running, his ability to accelerate and create makes the Pennsylvania native a nightmare for opposing safeties. He caught 45 balls for 883 yards and nine touchdowns in 2004, for an average of 19 yards per catch. Though he played admirably at outside linebacker -- notching 91 stops, 9.0 sacks, 15 tackles for losses and three interceptions -- he has All-American tools at tight end. Byham has yet to divulge even a short list, but Penn State (his childhood team), Iowa (the first school to offer him), Michigan, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Ohio State, USC and Michigan State are believed to be among the frontrunners.


3. Jamie Cumbie, Morris (Ill.), 6-7, 255 lbs., 4.8


An All-American candidate at both tight end and defensive end, the Illinois product is likely the most athletic big guy in the country. The No. 1 tight end in the Midwest could become an All-American at either spot because of his long wingspan. If he would just concentrate on tight end, he could probably surpass Reuland as the No. 1 guy in the country -- but, as it is, he's probably better at defensive end. The stats on both sides of the ball speak for themselves: he caught 18 passes for 302 yards and three scores at tight end and totaled 73 tackles, 9.0 sacks and 20 tackles for losses on the defensive line. For his efforts, Cumbie earned All-State honors on both sides of the ball. The two-sport star -- his fastball clocks upwards of 90 miles per hour -- has committed to Clemson.


4. Richard Dickson, Ocean Springs (Miss.), 6-3, 240 lbs., 4.7


Like Cumbie, Dickson -- who's considered one of the top three players in Mississippi -- is an All-American candidate at both tight end and defensive end. In person, he looks like a normal high school football player; on film, he's a holy terror, a guy who just makes big play after big play as a receiver and a pass rusher. On offense, Dickson averaged 15 yards per catch and tallied six touchdowns. At end, he netted more than 70 tackles and 6.0 sacks with a pair of interceptions. Richard's father, Dick, played football at Mississippi State and his sister currently attends Ole Miss -- both are considered frontrunners. Others in the running include Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Miami, Michigan, Florida State, Oklahoma and Louisiana State. 


5. NaDerris Ward, Oakland McClymonds (Calif.), 6-5, 246 lbs., 4.8


As a high school junior, Ward has an NFL-type body, nice hands and pretty good speed. One of the top three players in Northern California, the Oakland product does a really good job of protecting the ball from the defender with his body -- he keeps himself in a position where the ball never gets to the defender on a deflection or anything else. His production -- 25 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns -- could bear improvement, but Ward clearly has five-star potential. Favorite schools include Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi State, Kansas State and Oregon State.


6. Jermaine Gresham, Ardmore (Okla.), 6-7, 235 lbs., 4.7


While he's arguably the best all-around athlete in Oklahoma, Gresham is not yet a great receiver. When you watch him on film, he can make the spectacular catch -- and then drop an easy pass on the next play. He's the kind of guy that, if he puts his whole game together, will have the game of a Tony Gonzalez. A work in progress, the Sooner State product caught 26 passes for 400 yards and 10 scores as a sophomore, and 52 balls for 736 yards and four scores in 2004. Despite a tough home life, Greshman has grown into a fine young man with a great attitude. As far as colleges go, Oklahoma, Louisiana State, Nebraska and Missouri hold a slight edge on Texas, Miami, Florida and Florida State.


7. Justin Hargrove, Pittsburgh Baldwin (Pa.), 6-4, 245 lbs., 4.55


Hargrove is a five-star-player-in-waiting who will earn that fifth star by mid-season. After missing a big chunk of his junior year due to injury, the Pittsburgh standout is ready to turn heads in 2005. He's got phenomenal speed for a big guy, but he doesn't have a track record yet. A Pitt commit, Hargrove is a great catch for Dave Wannstedt, as he will develop All-American ability in college if he stays healthy.


8. Britt Mitchell, Kilgore (Texas), 6-5, 235 lbs., 4.7


Mitchell and Reuland are the two best blockers of the group. The Texas bruiser is the consummate blocker. He doesn't get a lot of chances to catch the ball -- he's caught 105 balls for 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons -- so right now he's sort of like a third tackle on his team. But he is a good receiver when he gets the opportunity. His speed in the 100-meter dash (10.5) is matched by his proficiency in the classroom (3.8 GPA). Stanford, Texas Tech, Arizona, Brigham Young and Oklahoma are listed among his favorite schools.


9. Paddy Mullen, DeSmet Jesuit (Mo.), 6-5, 265 lbs., 4.7


Mullen is the best tight end, the best defensive end and the best defensive tackle in Missouri. I think he has better ability on defense -- as his 55 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 16 tackles for losses, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions (despite constant double teams) would indicate -- but he seems to like tight end. He may not have played it much, but he's fluid and athletic enough to be a real good blocker. Many believe his future will be on the defensive side of the ball -- though he doesn't. Mullen committed to Notre Dame last April, choosing the Irish over Nebraska, Louisiana State, Oklahoma and Ohio State.


10. Brandon Warren, Alcoa (Tenn.,) 6-3, 235 lbs., 4.7


One of the top three prospects in Tennessee is a solid bull of a blocker, with unusually quick feet and pretty good hands. Warren is a real good blocker and a guy who can get himself open. He runs surprisingly well with the ball after the catch. Last season, he tallied over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 scores. On defense, he totaled 89 tackles and 20.0 sacks and was voted the nation's Defensive Player of the Year. Tennessee leads rivals Georgia, Florida, Florida State and North Carolina State in the race.



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