Fourth in a position-by-position series looking at the 2021 Texas Longhorns: Today: Tight end Who’s back: Cade Brewer, redshirt senior; Jared Wiley, junior; Brayden Liebrock, sophomore. Who’s gone: Malcolm Epps. 2021 signees: Juan Davis (Fort Worth Everman); Gunnar Helm (Cherry Creek, Colo.); Ja’Tavion Sanders (Denton Ryan). What to expect: […]
Fourth in a position-by-position series looking at the 2021 Texas Longhorns:
Today: Tight end
Who's back: Cade Brewer, redshirt senior; Jared Wiley, junior; Brayden Liebrock, sophomore.
Who's gone: Malcolm Epps.
2021 signees: Juan Davis (Fort Worth Everman); Gunnar Helm (Cherry Creek, Colo.); Ja’Tavion Sanders (Denton Ryan).
What to expect: Texas exhaled in relief upon Cade Brewer’s decision to return for a fifth season. He’s been a rock for four years now, appearing in 43 games (22 starts) as a reliable receiver and sturdy blocker.
Brewer spent this past spring as the old head of a tight end quintet that featured two early enrollees (Juan Davis, Gunnar Helm) and two juniors (Malcolm Epps, Jared Wiley). And with the imminent return of sophomore Brayden Liebrock (shoulder) and forthcoming enrollment of five-star freshman Ja’Tavion Sanders, Epps decided to transfer away from all the congestion.
Still, tight end might be Texas’ most crowded and diverse group. Every experience level is accounted for, and the skill sets coach Steve Sarkisian and tight ends coach Jeff Banks have to evaluate are eclectic.
Helm hauled in a 41-yard pass in the Orange-White game, a well-received public introduction. And Davis caught a pair of passes for 24 yards to cap an educational spring in which he took to the to the position after playing quarterback and receiver throughout high school.
Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Kyle Flood will employ a lot of 12 personnel (two tight ends) sets, and the position itself is vital to their collective strategy. So beyond Brewer, Texas needs some of its greener options to step up.
“You can argue the most important position after quarterback in our system is the tight end, because we ask him to do a lot,” Sarkisian said. “We ask him to be a run-game blocker, whether it’s in line or blocking linebackers. We ask for him to have a heavy influence in our pass protection. Then we ask them to have a big influence in our passing game as a receiver.
“You’ve seen my offenses in the past, we move our tight ends around quite a bit. So there’s a lot on these guys from a learning-curve standpoint to really dive into this offense because they really are what make us go.”
Denton Ryan All-American Ja’Tavion Sanders is a Bevo-sized question mark. His five-star skill and positional adaptability is undeniable following a starry two-way career for the Raiders, but no one’s certain where the 6-4, 220-pound freshman will line up in 2021.
Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will work together to find how to best utilize Sanders, whether that’s using him as a part-time two-way player or settling on a singularly focused role.
“He's a tremendous player, a very versatile player as everybody well knows,” Sarkisian said of Sanders. “He's a guy who's a tremendous defensive end. He can rush the passer, has all the skillset to rush. Then you look at him on offense at the tight end position and he's a real difference-maker. He can win one-on-one matchups, he can separate, he's got great ball skills. We're going to look at him at both, quite frankly.”
Projected depth chart