During head coach Mike MacIntyre’s tenure in Boulder, the tight end hasn’t been much of a factor in the Colorado passing game.
Tight ends have accounted for just 8.1 percent of the catches made by the Buffs in the last three years. By comparison, tight ends had 22 percent of the catches during the two-year Jon Embree era.
The Buffaloes don’t have a large group of tight ends this year, but the ones they have are talented and capable of putting up solid numbers.
This group is led by senior Sean Irwin, who has been known more for his blocking ability during this career. Last season, however, he showed off his receiving skills with 15 catches for 248 yards, and 11 of his catches resulted in first downs.
“Some guys are just receivers or some guys are just blockers,” MacIntyre said. “(Irwin) really can do both, and he’s been doing a lot of good things for us and I’m excited about his senior year.”
Irwin has a chance to be one of the top tight ends in the Pac-12, but he’ll get plenty of competition in practice from his teammates.
Before the start of preseason camp in August, BuffZone.com will take a look at each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the tight ends.
Position: Tight ends
Returnees: Brian Boatman (Jr., 6-3, 230, walk-on); Chris Bounds (Fr., 6-4, 245); George Frazier (Jr., 6-2, 260); Chris Hill (Jr., 6-2, 225, walk-on); Sean Irwin (Sr., 6-3, 245); Dylan Keeney (So., 6-6, 220).
Losses: Hayden Jones (left team)
2015 recap: When the Buffaloes threw to their tight ends last year, good things usually happened. Irwin averaged a team-best 16.5 yards per catch. Keeney averaged 11.8 yards per catch. Frazier (who is a fullback/tight end) caught a key touchdown in a close loss to USC. Overall, however, just 28 passes were caught by tight ends and only one went for a score. While they didn’t catch a lot of passes, the Buffs used the tight ends quite a bit as blockers, and Irwin, especially, excelled in that area.
2016 outlook: CU is loaded with talent at wide receiver, and finding enough passes to keep that group happy will be tough. Because of that, it’ll be interesting to see how much the Buffs actually use the tight end this year. Co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren have both stated that they like utilizing the tight end, and more than just for blocking. In CU’s tweaked offense, the tight end could be used not only lined up tight with the offensive line, but split out as a slot-type of receiver. This group has a chance to make a bigger impact than it has in years, if the Buffs decide to give them the ball. Irwin, Keeney and Frazier have all shown the ability to make big plays, and they can be major assets this season. All three could present matchup problems for opposing defenses, especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations. At 6-foot-6, Keeney is the tallest receiver/tight end on the roster and could really be fun to watch near the goal line. Bounds could become a factor, too. He redshirted last year, but coaches really like what he brings to the table. Losing Jones hurts, but the talent that is still there is good enough to help the Buffs on offense this season.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.