March 5, 2012

Spring peek: Tight ends and Fullbacks

GoldandGreenNews Publisher Ryan Krous analyzes the depth at tight end and fullback heading into spring ball. Who's healthy? Who will be counted on to step up? A lot of question marks need to be answered at these two positions.

Tight Ends

Crockett Gillmore, Jr.

Expectations were high for Gillmore heading into last season, even though it was his first full season at the position and he was already expected to be a primary target for Pete Thomas. The 6-foot-6, 245 pound tight end lived up to hype for the most part, grabbing 45 passes for 468 yards and 4 scores, which earned him second team All-MWC honors. With the uncertainty at the receiver position, Gillmore is sure to be a go-to target once again until the outside receivers find some consistency. Coaches have already stated their anticipation in using Gillmore as well. However, Gillmore needs to be more consistent in catching the ball in games, and his foot speed is also a bit of a question mark. But there's no denying the junior's talent or importance to the offense.

Blake Jones, So.

Jones saw extensive action as a true freshman in multiple tight end sets and special teams, even starting in week two against UNC. His transition from offensive tackle to tight end went relatively smoothly considering he was forced into action as an undersized true freshman. Jones will need to beef up, though. He can catch balls well but isn't overly athletic, so the addition of 20-25 pounds to his 235-pound frame would be welcomed for him to become a well-rounded blocker that can also catch balls when called upon.

Tommey Morris, T-Fr.

Morris grayshirted after being part of last year's signing class and is now on campus taking classes as a true freshman. Not many people are questioning his skill set, but at 6-foot, 225 pounds, the only question is what position he will be playing in Colorado State's offense. He can catch, run, block, and run through defenders, so he may be better suited lining up in the backfield. However he's used, Morris has the chance to sneak up the depth chart if he can prove he's ready to go after sitting out of football for nearly a year.

Cameron Moss, Jr.

So far in his career, Moss has been one of those players that can't seem to shake off the injury bug. After dislocating his kneecap as a redshirt freshman, Moss again did not see any playing time due to an assortment of injuries as a sophomore. Now a junior, Moss is hoping to stay healthy so he can show coaches he can become a viable target on offense. When healthy Moss displayed soft hands and a graceful stride that made him a legitimate target both as a possession receiver and on mid-range passes over the middle. Right now he's an average blocker for his size, but if healthy, Moss could become that next solid catching option behind Gillmore.

Ben Tedford, Sr.

Tedford has never lived up to the billing as one of the top in-state recruits from the Class of '08. After transitioning from defensive end to tight end midway through his career, Tedford hasn't seen much action due to slow development and primarily injuries, including a concussion that hampered his time on the field last year. He too can be a solid all-around tight end if he can remain injury-free in his senior year. He's 6-6, 254 pounds, so his size could be an important asset in short yardage situations.

Note: Tight ends Brett Jordan, Johnny Schupp and Daniel Nwosu will arrive in Fort Collins in June for summer school. Expect all three to compete for early time behind Crockett Gillmore. Nwosu will likely start out on the offensive side of the ball but could switch to defense if help is needed in the pass rush.


Joe Brown, Jr.

Brown was third on the team in receptions last season with twenty-five. Sure-handed, Brown was one a check down targets coming out of the backfield for Pete Thomas. It will be interesting to see how the new staff will want to use him because he's only 6-3, 223 pounds, but has soft hands and decent mobility to make plays after the catch. It's nice to see him make plays and be a part of the offense, but he shouldn't be the team's third leading receiver. He can block too, so it will be intriguing as to how Coach Baldwin plans to utilize him, whether it's more as a pass catcher out of the backfield or if he can beef up and become more of a blocking back/tight end in jumbo packages.

Kivon Cartwright, So.

Listed as a fullback, Cartwright is basically a tight end that lines up in the backfield or in the slot, depending on the formation. He's a pretty big target at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, and it would be nice to see him get more playing time in certain situations. He's a bit of a 'tweener since he isn't big enough to handle blocking duties on the line, but after a three game suspension last year and only three catches for 63 yards, now is the time for Cartwright to live up to his potential and become a bigger weapon on offense.

Austin Gillmore, Sr.

Crockett's older brother is undersized at 6-foot, 218 pounds, but he has been productive wherever coaches have played him. He was solid as a second string linebacker before switching to the offense and quickly became the team's best blocking fullback before going down with torn knee ligaments in the third game against UNC. It isn't known whether he is fully recovered in time for spring drills, but expect the senior to be at or near the top of the depth chart come the fall.

Jake Levin, Jr.

Another check down option in last year's offense, Levin had nine grabs for 110 yards and a score. The junior is one of many CSU fullbacks that are undersized but fairly productive given the opportunity to catch passes out of the backfield. Assuming the position group is fully healthy, Levin will likely be competing with several similar players like Austin Gillmore, Joe McKay, and Joe Brown for playing time.

George Maumau, R-Fr.

Maumau tore up his knee and was forced to redshirt, and assuming he's one hundred percent come March 21 for the start of practice, he is an 'x' factor at this position. He was recruited out of Valor Christian to be a bulldozer of a blocker, and he has the size and tools to do so. The Rams were hopeful he could become the next Zac Pauga and be a featured blocker in Steve Fairchild's pro-style offense. If healthy, Maumau could leap frog several other veterans at fullback due to his raw strength and blocking skills he already possesses. Keep an eye out for the bruiser in the spring.

Joe McKay, Jr.

McKay saw action in nine games, mostly on special teams. He is similar to most other fullbacks on the team in size and skill set, but hasn't been able to crack the lineup even with all the injuries sustained a season ago. McKay, though, gives the Rams a blocking fullback that could be a productive option if given the opportunity.

Analysis: Coach Baldwin has already stated that he wants to use multiple tight end sets in his offense at CSU, but the problem is he lacks size. The Rams were forced to use Brandon Haynes or Ty Sambrailo at times as a third tight end in motion to provide the necessary beef to run the ball. With Jim McElwain already in dire need of offensive linemen for the spring (the team posted a notice stating its need for walk-ons to participate this spring to provide enough bodies along the line), Baldwin likely won't have the luxury of switching some bigger bodies to tight end. There is athleticism at the position, and hopefully guys like Cartwright, Moss, or Jones can step up to provide depth behind a healthy Crockett Gillmore. However, due to injuries and possible position changes, a lot could change at both tight end and fullback by the time the season opener on Sep. 2nd arrives.

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