This series focuses on returning players. We've already covered the main offensive line -- Centers, Offensive Tackles, Offensive Guards.
Future posts will go through the rest of the returners at each position. Then I will take a look at how the new recruits fit in, and take a stab at guessing how our two-deeps will stack up.
The idea is to get better acquainted with our football team, and to anticipate how this team may perform in 2009. I hope this series also helps readers to assess the progress our program is making, even if the won/loss results don't necessarily reflect it. The Spartan football program is improving.
Now, on to the players. Our returning Tight Ends are:
Julian Harris, SR, 6-2, 250: Harris played in just two games in 2008, making no catches. He transferred to SJSU from the University of San Diego in 2006. He was a first-team all-league player in his senior year of high school. At 6 - 2, I think he has marginal height to be a standout tight end at the Division 1A level, but he does pack 250 pounds, and could be tough to bring down. But we really don't know because he has had very little playing time or opportunity to show us. He is the only returning Senior at the position.
A. J. Moosa, RS/FR, 6-0, 200: Moosa will be a red-shirt freshman in 2009, having not made any game appearances in 2008. He is listed on most rosters as a Tight End, but the 2008 Media Guide also describes him as a linebacker hopeful! Moosa joined the Spartans as a walk-on in 2007, and I do have a soft spot for walk-ons. He was an all-league defensive end in his senior year at Cleveland H.S. in Reseda, California, but doesn't really have the size to play that position in FBS college footall. He doesn't really have a "classic" Tight End build, but he may have intangibles -- talent and determination. It will be interesting to see how Coach may use him in 2009.
Ryan Otten, RS/FR, 6-5, 215: This kid could be great. At 6-5, he's plenty tall to create mis-matches against pass defenders. His weight is listed as 215, which is a bit on the light side for his height, but I'd bet he comes into Spring practice a good 10-to-15 pounds heavier this year, hopefully all muscle weight. By his prime, I'd look for him to have a playing weight of around 240 or so. Otten joined SJSU in the Fall of 2008 as a true freshman, and made no appearances. He was a 2007 first-team All Nor-Cal selection, a first-team slection on the Sacramento Bee's All-Metro team, first-team all league, his team MVP and Captain. The guy has credentials. In addition to Tight End, Otten played outside linebacker his senior year, and snagged 3 interceptions! Even this kid's mother is a stud -- she played softball for Sierra College and is a member of that school's Sports Hall of Fame. Otten will almost certainly get his share of chances in the 2009 season, and I think he has the potential to be one of SJSU's best-ever at the position.
Ray Rodriguez, FR, 6-1, 245: Rodriguez was listed as a "Newcomer" in the 2008 Media Guide, as both a Tight End and Defensive End prospect. I would guess that where he ends up, nobody knows. In terms of build, he is similar to Moosa and Harris. If he doesn't get into the line-up at the Tight End position in 2009, look for him on special teams, and maybe at a different position.
Before the arrival of Avelino Valencia as a preferred walk-on, this position was looking pretty thin, and the players we do have on roster looked a bit too short and a might too heavy to be pass receivers. They do have good, builds, though, to work in as blockers, and with the speed implied by their position, to be great special teams players.
In 2008, our Tight Ends (Jeff Clark and Brian Elledge) caught 37 passes for a toal of 366 yards and two TDs. That works out to a 9.89 yard per catch average, and a little over 3 catches per game. Many folks questioned whether we really utilized our Tight Ends as well as we could have in 2008. The yards per catch average of 9.89 is not too shabby, but the number of catches per game suggests this position was a bit under-utilized, and just two TDs all year by our Tight Ends indicates they were not much relied on in scoring situations.
I am very jazzed with Otten, but senior Julian Harris is more likely to get the starting job (if it is not filled by Valencia). But Harris also lacks game experience at SJSU, and if Otten shows he is able, he could challenge for the starting job.
If Coach is able to implement a more run-oriented offense next year, it could open up more opportunities to hit the Tight Ends on play-action, or delayed routes. The type of players Coach has stocked at Tight End (6-0 to 6-2, wide-bodied) also suggests we may see more two-tight end formations in 2009.
We'll all just have to wait and see. Going into 2009, our Tight End position is a real big question mark because none of our prospects or returning players have played much. But there is certainly some flexibility at the position.
As before, thanks for reading, please feel free to leave comments, but let's keep it focused on Tight Ends.
Next up: Running Backs.