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2013 Position Previews: Tight Ends and Offensive Linemen

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Hoping to finish the position previews for the offense before tomorrow's scrimmage and Meet the Bears, today I'm tackling all of the big uglies, including the few that catch passes from time to time.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Part of today's position preview is going to be something a lot of people want to see: the offensive line. The other is relatively uninteresting in that we have two established seniors, both of whom will start, and a sophomore JUCO backing them up. But what people came to see is the OL, where turnover and a major injury have given us a lot to talk about.

TIGHT ENDS

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
18 Jordan Najvar SR 6-6/260 Tight End
20 Jerod Monk SR 6-5/275 Tight End
81 Rhett Butler
JR 6-2/225 Tight End
15 Gus Penning SO 6-5/245 Tight End

Now you know why we're taking two TEs, Blake Mahon and Jordan Feuerbacher, in the 2014 class. Feuerbacher is particularly exciting in that he is enrolling at semester and will go through spring and summer workouts with the team. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him play next season.

One thing to remember with Baylor's TEs is that they are blockers first, receivers second. You see that a bit in the sizes of Najvar and Monk; both are basically third tackles in size and play like it. In the past, Butler has played FB for the Bears, so I expect that time he gets at the TE spot will be in similar situations. Penning, in his JUCO career, was much more of a pass catcher than either Najvar or Monk have been.

TE Jordan Najvar -- SR -- #18 -- 6-6, 260 pounds

Baylor recruited Najvar out of high school in 2009, eventually losing on his recruitment to Stanford. We got another chance a year later, when he transferred to Baylor after his redshirt season on the West Coast. He sat out that first year before playing as a sophomore in RGIII's Heisman season.

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2011 Baylor Big 12 SO TE 15 146 9.7 2 0 0 0 15 146 9.7 2
*2012 Baylor Big 12 JR TE 10 80 8.0 2 1 1 1.0 1 11 81 7.4 3
Career Baylor 25 226 9.0 4 1 1 1.0 1 26 227 8.7 5
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.

So far, the Community Projections for Najvar have been pretty muted due mostly to Baylor's history at the position-- I actually have the highest projection for receptions at 24. It's going to be interesting to see how Baylor uses its two primary TEs this year, considering our QB has never started a game and we might try to ease him in. I wonder, though, if we don't do that through WR screens rather than TE dumpoffs.

Whatever we end up doing, Najvar is a complete TE capable of serving in the traditional role (at Baylor, I mean) of an extra blocker or someone who can stretch the field a bit from the TE spot. Hopefully, we give him enough opportunities this season to get good looks from NFL scouts.

TE Jerod Monk -- SR -- #20 -- 6-5, 275 pounds

Did you know that Jerod Monk was a QB in high school? It's true. He started at QB for Wylie High School, taking them to the 5A Division II State Championship game his senior year. Then, all he did the next year was play in 10 of 12 games as a true freshman tight end. He didn't record any receiving stats, but he actually threw for a touchdown pass that season on a trick play. I've tried and failed to find video of it. The next two years, 2010 and 2011, he played in all 26 of Baylor's games before getting hurt last year against West Virginia and receiving a medical hardship for an additional year of eligibility.

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2010 Baylor Big 12 SO TE 8 69 8.6 2 0 0 0 8 69 8.6 2
*2011 Baylor Big 12 JR TE 9 100 11.1 2 0 0 0 9 100 11.1 2
*2012 Baylor Big 12 SR TE 1 11 11.0 0 0 0 0 1 11 11.0 0
Career Baylor 18 180 10.0 4 0 0 0 18 180 10.0 4
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table

Monk, like Najvar, is a fifth-year senior this year upon whom Baylor will depend heavily at the TE position. Unlike Najvar, however, he's basically a pure blocker, and I wouldn't expect more than 10 receptions over the entire year. Still, he's an extremely valuable piece that we will be glad to have back healthy this season.

TE Rhett Butler -- JR -- #81 -- 6-2, 225 pounds

Butler is one of Baylor's walk-on success stories int hat he has become, over the past two seasons, a very serviceable special teams and offensive performer. He played in 11 games last season after 3 the previous year, and Baylor will look to him as a backup to Najvar and Monk in 2013 while Penning adjusts to the college game. You can never have too many contributors at the TE spot.

TE Gus Penning -- SO -- #15 -- 6-5, 245 pounds

A member of Baylor's 2013 recruiting class, Penning enrolled in January after transferring from Riverside CC in California. He's listed third on Baylor's post-spring depth chart at TE behind Monk and Najvar, and he's more of a pass-catcher than a blocker at this point. You might see him lining up at the traditional TE spot on the line, flexed out of the backfield, or perhaps even split out wide. He's a talented receiver with size, something we don't have a lot of right now in proven quantities. I'm excited to see what he does this fall.

OFFENSIVE LINE*

*I'm changing things up here with the chart in that I'm going to list all the starters together from the left to right, first, regardless of classification. Second-string will be after that, and the reserves will be listed solely by class.

Starters

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
58 Spencer Drango SO 6-6/315 Left Tackle
68 Cyril Richardson SR 6-5/335 Left Guard
54 Stefan Huber SR 6-4/290 Center
67 Desmine Hilliard SO 6-4/330 Right Guard
77 Kelvin Palmer SR 6-4/290 Right Tackle
75 Troy Baker JR 6-6/315 Right Tackle

These are the starters as of the end of spring practice and the beginning of Fall Camp. There are six of them because I included Troy Baker, who is currently out with a knee injury suffered in the middle of spring drills. When he returns, don't be surprised to see Palmer move back to center with Huber either in reserve or back as the starting right guard.

This is a group that, sans-Baker, returns 2 starters from last season at this point. Even still, it's an extremely experienced group with all five starters having played significant roles last season. We've shifted people around, sure, but by the heart of our season, we'll have both starting tackles back, an All-American left guard, and players in Palmer, Huber, and Hilliard who are all more than capable.

Because there are a million of them on the roster, I'm not going to go through each player one-by-one. All the pertinent information for each player is in the chart above or known already. Cyril leads the group, as he did last year, and is either the best or second-best NFL prospect on our roster. The Cyril-Drango combination on the left side is as rock solid as any in the country, I think. The right side is less-heralded, for sure, but Palmer is an excellent lineman who earned a ton of playing time last year. Hilliard might well be Cyril in two years.

Second-Team

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
69 Pat Colbert SO 6-5/295 Left Tackle
60 Laquan McGowan SO 6-7/375 Left Guard
55 Kyle Fuller RS-FR 6-4/295 Center
79 Jason Osei RS-FR 6-4/315 Right Guard
72 Tre'Von Armstead RS-FR 6-6/280 Right Tackle

This second unit could be characterized with one descriptor: young. Even Osei, the elder statesman of the group due to his history playing in England, is extremely inexperienced. Colbert and Armstead, the tackles, are both still growing and are not yet ready for prime time. They'll fill in well in spots, but an injury to either starting tackle could be devastating. That's part of the reason Palmer is so important, because he can play every position on the line and do so quite well.

After basically sitting out a year for personal issues, McGowan brings his unearthly frame back to the OL. He and Osei suffer from basically the same problem at this point-- their conditioning is subpar, so we can't afford to have them in games for long stretches of time. Fuller competed with Huber for the starting spot at center, a spot that should be his next season when Huber graduates.

Reserves

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
62 Tyler Edwards JR 6-4/285 Guard/Tackle
73 Blake Muir SO 6-5/295 Guard/Tackle
66 Drew Earnest SO 6-4/270 Guard/Tackle
74 Sean Muir FR 6-2/280 Center
53 Keith Orcutt FR 6-3/275 Tackle
64 Kyle Jacob FR 6-1/265 Center

First and foremost-- I'm guessing on these positions because none of the above players have ever set foot on the field for Baylor. Blake Muir is transferring to Baylor from Hawaii and will have to sit out this season due to the NCAA's transfer regulations. That means he is less a reserve and more ... non-existent from a playing time standpoint. He'll be a good one next year, when he's a junior.

This list is where not getting Porter and Moore in from this past recruiting class hurts us, since three of the names (Earnest, Orcutt, and Jacob) are walk-ons. That doesn't mean they're incapable of contributing some day, but we'd rather they not have to. Sean Muir is the younger brother of Blake and has never played football in the United States. I was under the impression that he was gray-shirting, but I'm no longer convinced that is the case.

The "star" of this list for this year is Tyler Edwards, the JUCO player that was supposed to enroll in January, didn't, and finally made it in this summer. He should be good depth this coming season, and I suspect the only reason he's not on one of the lists above is that he hasn't been here very long at all.

In all honesty, I'd like to have more reserves available to fill in gaps and absorb playing time should injuries occur. Our extreme good luck in that regard aside, injuries happen. I wish we were a little better prepared to handle it. I have every confidence in our first team unit, the second team just scares me a bit. That's all I'm saying.

----

Between the TEs and OL on this list, Baylor should be in good hands blocking-wise this coming season. We have two starters that should be All-Conference performers, at least, in Drango and Richardson, and three more that can challenge for it. With our talent at the skill positions and these guys up front, our offense should be quite good. I wouldn't expect much, if any, dropoff from this past season. I mean that.