Who will be the best tight ends of 2017 out of the Group of Five conferences and the Independent schools?
The Group of Five conferences are a little light on Mackey Award-caliber tight ends in 2017. Out of the four-school Independent ranks, though, reside a pair of talented, big-bodied pass-catchers capable of making a run at All-American status this fall. Adam Breneman and Alize Jones are a couple of former blue-chip high school recruits who’ve endured detours to get to this point of their athletic careers. While neither will be eligible for all-conference honors in December, both should have the undivided attention of NFL scouts by that time of the year.
Top Returning Group Of Five, Independent TEs
5. David Wells, San Diego State
4. Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
3. Blake Mack, Arkansas State
2. Alize Jones, Notre Dame
As long as Jones properly applies himself in the classroom, he ought to be fine in 2017. He was one of the country’s top-rated tight ends in 2015, and played well as a true freshman. But his development was stunted a year ago by academic ineligibility. Jones has the size, athleticism and blocking skills to be Notre Dame’s next great tight end. Fans of the program are now holding their collective breath, hoping this is the year the Las Vegas native erupts into a seam-buster who can complement wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on the outside.
1. Adam Breneman, Massachusetts
No tight end in college football has seen the higher highs and the lower lows than Breneman has since 2013. The former five-star Penn State recruit actually briefly retired from the game, but then decided to return after earning his degree in Happy Valley. Breneman flourished in his first season with the Minutemen, leading all FBS tight ends with 70 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. Even at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he moves with all of the agility and quickness of some of the game’s bigger wide receivers.