To preface, I should warn you that this will be the most cut and dry analysis of any unit on Cincinnati’s football team. The tight ends in 2011 were led by 6’4″ 260ish lbs behemoth Adrien Robinson. He has been a big target for UC quarterbacks for the past two seasons and is one of the best run blockers on the team. That aspect of his game has been important for the Bearcats who have developed into a more balanced offense that tries to run and pass the ball equally. But Cincinnati still operates in the spread and while that formation typically features wide receivers, the tight end should be utilized to open up the middle of the field for the offense.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case the past two seasons with Zach Collaros at quarterback. He simply wasn’t tall enough to see the area 5 – 10 yards downfield between the hashmarks. That’s why most of Cincinnati’s passing plays in 2010 and 2011 were to the sidelines or with Zach rolling out of the pocket. In effect, the production from the tight end position suffered. But in 2012 with the 6’4″ Munchie Legaux at the helm this unit could see a resurgence. Losing Robinson who will most likely be taking his talents to the NFL is tough but Cincinnati isn’t exactly green at this position either. Both Travis Kelce and Blake Annen took live snaps at tight end last season. Essentially everyone on the depth chart will move up a slot.
Starter: Travis Kelce
The redshirt senior sat out his sophomore season for disciplinary reasons. But he returned as a junior in 2011 with more focus than ever before. While Robinson was officially TE-1 on the depth chart, Kelce only participated in two less games than the senior. He typically lined up next to Robinson to provide an extra blocker on one side or in goal line situations. Now the leading veteran himself, I think Kelce will have a solid year with his size very compatible to Robinson’s (6’6″ 255 lbs vs. 6’4″ 260 lbs). I also think Kelce is a better route runner and just has quicker feet in general which allows him to shed coverage easily. He could become one of Munchie Legaux’s favorite targets in 2012.
Backup: Blake Annen
Annen hasn’t had many opportunities to showcase his talents because he has been constantly overshadowed by Ben Guidugli, Robinson, and Kelce. While the latter’s ‘backup’ this season, Annen should serve the same role that Kelce did last year. Remember, all of the tight ends are just moving up one spot on the two-deep in 2012. So he will get quite a bit of reps with the 2nd-team offense and with the 1st team in goal line formations and as an extra blocker on run plays.
Backup: Josh Russ
To be honest I’m not quite sure who will follow Annen at tight end on the depth chart in 2012. But for now I’ll pencil in the redshirt freshman from Elyria, Ohio Josh Russ as the ‘3rd stringer’.
DARK HORSES AT TE
Travis Kelce and Blake Annen aren’t going anywhere. The only movement I foresee would be at the backup’s backup position where Josh Russ is currently placed. The competition will come from a combination of the young Matt Staubach and the veteran Demetrius Richardson. The Bearcats signed a talented tight end in DeShawn Dowdy for the 2012 class who is currently on campus participating in spring drills but I think he winds up taking a redshirt this season because of Kelce/Annen dominating the top of the depth chart.
- Matt Staubach – Redshirt freshman; Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Demetrius Richardson – Senior; Marlton, New Jersey