Washington Football spring training position review Tight Ends

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 16: Tight end Hunter Bryant
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 16: Tight end Hunter Bryant /
SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 16: Tight end Hunter Bryant
SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 16: Tight end Hunter Bryant /

With the arrival of spring, the Washington Football team is already preparing for spring training. We have your sneak preview here for Tight Ends

The Washington Football team is already getting ready for the 2018-2019 football season. There really is no other choice, as the team must not only realign new players onto the roster and depth charts, but all the while improve the team enough to reclaim the PAC-12 Conference Championship. It all begins at Spring Training, on March 28, 2018.

To do so, the team cannot single out a few positions, but must set the bar higher everywhere. Stronger defense, better passing game, harder running. If one lesson was learned above all others last season, it is that the Washington Huskies cannot take any game for granted.

Tight end turnover

One of positions which suffered continuity issues virtually all season  was the tight end position.  The season opened with junior tight end Drew Sample as the primary starter. But he suffered an injury when facing the Montanna Grizzlies.

That placed tight end Will Dissly as the primary receiver on some plays. He delivered in a huge way. Meanwhile, freshman Hunter Bryant began to work into the offense. That proved to be wise.  Ultimately, Bryant became the team’s second best receiver despite falling to injury and missing the final five games of season. Sample returned for the final three games to the season. Dissly is moving on to the NFL, Sample and Bryant return to the team after last year’s injuries.

What to look for

The Washington Huskies get back Hunter Bryant and Drew Sample. Drew Sample needs to show up 100 percent.  But my eyes will be on the play of redshirt freshman Cade Otton, sophomore Jacob Kizer, and incoming freshman Devin Culp.  While both Otton and Kizer list on the roster as tight-ends, they were both originally recruited as open-ended athletes. That means that Otton could end up as tight end, linebackers, or “buck” pass rushers.  How the pair work out this spring will be telling indeed if they land in another role.

Culp is, in my research, as gifted at pass-receiving as Hunter Bryant. Bryant, at 6-foot-2 245 pounds offers a bit of both catching and blocking. Culp, at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, is as dangerous of a route runner, with the added bones of incredibly soft hands. We know that Jake Browning is spot on getting the ball near the pass catcher. Culp’s ability to snag those passes moves him to someone worth watching this spring.

Best position competition

The presence of Culp on this roster serves to shake up a lot of things. He should be competing early and often for looks with the starters. That places pressure on Hunter Bryant to deliver the year after injury. But it takes tremendous pressure off Bush Hamdan to start Bryant if he’s not 100 percent. I like the thought of having someone pushing Bryant.

Drew Sample will get the primary tight end blocker role from Dissly this year. But watch for signs of junior Jusstis Warren and Kizer getting looks at the role as well.  All three have great size and physicality, and I don’t see the Huskies allowing the thinning of ranks to deter them from a PAC-12 Conference Championship this season. Jacob Kizer played in 12 games last season. Look for him to challenge Sample as the primary blocking tight end. But don’t rule out Jusstis Warren either. He caught one pass for a touchdown last season.

What not to look for

Don’t expect Bryant to be lights out in spring training. The tight end is too valuable to this team in the passing game to rush his rehabilitation along. He’s still on the mend, and the coaching staff will no doubt surround him in enough bubble wrap. That opens up spring training to the other tight ends to get coaches attention for an improved role this season.

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The team has a lot players to work through this spring. Some players will walk away knowing their role. Others may be tasked with areas to improve before the fall. Still others will be left to work out basics before coaches can commit to their roles and playing time in the upcoming season.  But this team is solid at tight end. And I can see more passes thrown to this group over the course of the season.