Spring Practice Preview: The Tight Ends

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via images.chron.com

The Starter:  Jonny Moore

The Miners are led at tight end by returning starter Johnny Moore.  Moore, a redshirt senior, has had extensive playing time in the offense since his sophomore campaign in 2008.  The 6'5, 250 pound Moore started all 12 games for the Miners last season.  Moore is a dependable outlet for Trevor Vittatoe but it's unclear if he can ever emerge as a true downfield threat in the offense's passing game.  Simply put, Moore and the tight ends in general just don't get a lot of passes thrown their way.

It's no secret that Trevor liked to throw the ball down the field and that UTEP also learned to rely heavily on the screen game last season as Donald Buckram emerged as a serious threat catching the ball out of the backfield.  Consequently, Moore finished just 7th on the team in receptions and receiving yards.  Moore is a good, fundamentally sound blocker but it will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Aaron Price can find a way to get him Moore more involved in the passing game. 

Look at the table below to get an idea of how rarely the Miner tight ends are used in the passing game.

UTEP's 2009 Tight End Production

Tight End Class Receptions Yards YPC TD's
Jonny Moore Senior 13 135 10.4 1
Elijah Goldtrap Senior 3 46 15.3 0
Craig Wenrick Sophomore 0 0 0 0
Geoff Amato Senior 0 0 0 0

 

The Supporting Cast

The Miners have three senior tight ends on the 2010 roster:  Moore, Elijah Goldtrap, and Geoff Amato.  Goldtrap has emerged as the Miners #2 tight end and Aaron Price gets him on the field often.  Goldtrap played in all 12 games last season and was the only Miner tight end other than Moore to catch a pass.  He has two career starts and gives the Miners a nice insurance policy behind Moore.  He's a good athlete and UTEP's coaches used him on the defensive line early in his career.

Amato has never caught a pass as a Miner despite being a senior.  He's listed as a tight end but he has been used mostly on special teams (should be the back-up deep snapper this fall). 

After Moore and Goldtrap, Craig Wenrick is the only other Miner waiting in the wings with any type of collegiate experience. Rated the #46 tight end in the nation coming out of Flower Mound, the sophomore has potential to contribute in the passing game.  He didn't accumulate any statistics as a freshman, but sitting behind two juniors will tend to do that.  Miner fans should keep an eye on Craig, the 6'5, 235 pounder could be the starting tight end next year as he could be the only returning Miner with game experience on the 2011 roster. Wenrick played in a spread offense at Flower Mound and was a threat at receiver, it will be interesting to see how he looks this spring.

The New Guys

Eric Tomlinson and Katrae Ford

Realizing that he loses both Jonny Moore and his primary backup Elijah Goldtrap to graduation at the end of the season, Mike Price signed two tight ends out of high school to join the team in the fall.  Neither Eric Tomlinson or Katrae Ford graduated early to join the team this spring, so we won't get a glimpse of them in Miner uniforms until fall practice. 

Tomlinson, a 6'6 210 lb. freshman out of Klein was listed as a three star prospect by Rivals.  Tomlinson didn't play tight end in high school, rather, he was a defensive lineman.  Klein's Tight End was Eric Kisseberth who signed to play with Louisiana Tech.   Tomlinson was recruited as a tight end, though, and he reportedly worked out as a tight end at various camps. Tomlinson was a solid defensive lineman at Klein and earned second-team All District 13-5A status.

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Ford (pictured), out of Westfield High, was also 2nd Team All 13-5A at Tight End.  Both Tomlinson and Ford  were named to the Houston Top 100 by Fox Sports Houston;  Ford at tight end, and Tomlinson at defensive lineman.  Tomlinson was also a stellar basketball player.  He was named second-team All District 13-5A as on the hardwood.   Note that incoming Miner receiver recruit, Jordan Leslie, made the first team as a basketball player as well.

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