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Oklahoma State Football

A Possible Shift Could Be Coming in How Oklahoma State Recruits and Uses Tight Ends

January 24, 2022
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THE OLD

One of the bigger criticisms of the Oklahoma State program from fans in recent years has been on the usage and style of play of tight ends or ‘Cowboy Backs’ as they are currently called in Stillwater.

The Cowboy Back position essentially encompasses tight ends, H-backs, and fullbacks all into one position and role. 

In theory, the position is one that is valuable, but it only works if you have a player with a very unique set of skills and body type and unfortunately, it is not one you can find very easily.

It needs to be a player big enough to help in the blocking game as an extra offensive lineman but also one that is athletic enough to run routes from on and off the line. They also need to have the vision and athleticism to operate as a fullback from the backfield. While Oklahoma State has had zero problems finding guys big enough or strong enough to block, it is the passing and receiving game that has lacked. The last true receiving threat at the position was Blake Jarwin, who had 41 receptions for 616 yards and five touchdowns in a three-year span in Stillwater. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s something.

In recent seasons, Jelani Woods had potential to be very good, but his hands did not serve him very well while in Stillwater. Logan Carter has never caught more than eight passes in a season and Braden Cassity has seen time on offense, defense and special teams in his four years in Stillwater. 2021 was the first time he caught a pass, and he was only able to get five of them.

During the 2021 season, we saw freshman offensive lineman Silas Barr move to the position to help with depth in the blocking portion of the role. We also saw freshman receiver Blaine Green make a shift inside to aid in the receiving game, which helped exponentially, as he finished the season with 21 receptions for 314 yards and a touchdown.

As a wide receiver in his first six games, he had seven catches. After moving to the tight end role in his final four games of the season, he had 14 catches for 185 yards. There was a clear swing in production. This is where I think we could see a change in the future of the position.

THE NEW

You can essentially refer to the role simply as a ‘playmaking tight end’. It is a tight end who has more skills in the receiving game, especially run after the catch ability. There is a bit less of a focus on the blocking importance with these players. 

It is the same type of play that has torched Oklahoma State in recent years. In just 2021, the Cowboys faced three players of this mold in Oklahoma’s Austin Stogner, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar, and Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer. In those games, the three players combined for 16 catches, 202 yards and 3 touchdowns on the Cowboys defense.

What Blaine Green did is most likely what the Cowboys will be looking to do more of. Basically, having a big receiver playing tight end sets up for mismatches, lining up against slower linebackers or smaller defensive backs. 

This also means less of the fullback type role and more focus on essentially being a receiver.

Instead of Blaine’s 6’1 frame, just imagine 6’3-6’5.

Not only is there a shift in the scheme or the plays called, but there is a shift in the actual size and build of the player too. And how they are getting them.

Instead of bringing in guys who are 240-250 pounds already and trying to teach them to run routes and catch balls, the Cowboys now seem to be targeting prospects who are 195-215 pounds with already developed skills running routes and ball skills and then bulking them up to 230-250 pounds.

In my opinion though, the biggest shift in how they are approaching the recruitment of this position now... they are putting a priority on using scholarships on them instead of just walk-ons. 

Right now, out of the seven Cowboy Backs on the roster, five are on scholarship, but two of them were recruited for different positions and one started as a walk-on. So, in reality, only two of the seven were offered scholarships to be Cowboy Backs. And neither of those have played, if at all.

As part of this new ideology of the position, we saw them bring Tabry Shettron in, who is the best prospect they have had at the position in quite a while. He is 6’4 215 pounds and had 15 touchdowns in his two-year varsity career. Mike Gundy said he thinks Tabry will get up to around 250 pounds. 

We have also seen the staff show interest in prospects like Austin Westlake’s Keaton Kubecka, who is in the 2023 class and was on campus for junior day. He is 6’3 190 pounds and had 714 yards and 12 touchdowns in his junior season. He has a frame that can put on a lot more mass, to where you could see him at 6’3 and maybe 230(ish) pounds.

The role of the ‘playmaking tight end’ is becoming rapidly popular at this level because very few defenses in college football have an adequate defender to stop them. They are too big, too fast, and have too good of athleticism and hands. Kolby Harvell-Peel is an excellent coverage player and was practically defenseless against Michael Mayer in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Kyle Pitts, Brock Bowers, Michael Mayer, Austin Stogner, and Arik Gilbert all fit the mold teams will be trying to copy. And they should. If a team has a player who can fit this style of offense and you have a capable quarterback, you can take an offense to the next level.

All of these players have the size to help in the blocking game and the athleticism to be good route runners. The No. 1 skill they possess though is the run after catch ability. They are also all able to run a route tree, meaning you can utilize them in the short and long game.

Discussion from...

A Possible Shift Could Be Coming in How Oklahoma State Recruits and Uses Tight Ends

2,760 Views | 18 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by CowboyFan4Life
Polston31
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Curious to see if we can be successful recruiting that way. We can barely land the ones we get now
rcfb
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We should have pitched this to Luke Hasz before he committed to Arkansas. Can't believe we lost another instate talent to them.
Marshall Levenson
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rcfb said:

We should have pitched this to Luke Hasz before he committed to Arkansas. Can't believe we lost another instate talent to them.
He is a legacy of Arkansas. If he wasn't going to OU, it was gonna be Arkansas.
FTWPoke
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It is one thing to make a change in the type of athletes we recruit at TE but there also has to be a buy-in by the HC and OC. We have had talent through the years and have not effectively utilized the talent in play calling. One is the example you mentioned - Jelani Woods. He transferred to Virginia and had 44 receptions for 598 yards and 8 TDs.
Marshall Levenson
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FTWPoke said:

It is one thing to make a change in the type of athletes we recruit at TE but there also has to be a buy-in by the HC and OC. We have had talent through the years and have not effectively utilized the talent in play calling. One is the example you mentioned - Jelani Woods. He transferred to Virginia and had 44 receptions for 598 yards and 8 TDs.
I agree and I think the moves will be synonymous. Them moving to the more athletic version of the position points towards them moving to the receiving direction.
CaliforniaCowboy
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does this move us full circle away from Holgy's offense (he dumped the TEs) and back to the plod along Walsh/Chelf style offenses?

Marshall Levenson
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CaliforniaCowboy said:

does this move us full circle away from Holgy's offense (he dumped the TEs) and back to the plod along Walsh/Chelf style offenses?


Tight ends are becoming more and more popular and prevalent across college football so I would be very surprised to many offenses who don't use them moving forward.
eecowboy
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Nice article Marshall, and FTW hit the nail-on-the-head with the Jelani bit.

Question, is the juco transfer from CA (forgot his name - late arrival last year) going to factor in next year, or are we waiting on Tabry??

Go Cowboys!
Polston31
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The kid from Kansas was supposed to be pretty good I thought too quinton Stewart?
Marshall Levenson
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eecowboy said:

Nice article Marshall, and FTW hit the nail-on-the-head with the Jelani bit.

Question, is the juco transfer from CA (forgot his name - late arrival last year) going to factor in next year, or are we waiting on Tabry??

Go Cowboys!
Austin Jarrard and I believe he will be a big part of this shift. He was a really good route runner and receiver. Tabry is possibly in an even better situation because they get to build his body from the start.
Marshall Levenson
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Polston31 said:

The kid from Kansas was supposed to be pretty good I thought too quinton Stewart?

Quinton Stewart and Austin Jarrard were two I mentioned about not playing yet. I think AJ will be good, I am not sure yet about Stewart as he is still young.
FTWPoke
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Wish we would have gotten in on Andre Dollar from Mustang. He was a long-term Oregon commit and due to inattention from new Oregon staff - committed to Washington State. Put him with Coach Glass and would have been the type of TE you are talking.
CaliforniaCowboy
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I'm just scratching my head wondering why we'd try to put more receivers down field.... this QB can't get past his #2 progression before his happy feet take him out of the pocket ...

Unless the TE is the #1 target, I don't see how this could be helpful... we'd be better off keeping a big body back to block and sending the RB on short routes over the middle.

Dantana
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What a croc of bull! Jalani Woods caught the ball just fine at Virginia. A pass catching tight end is HUGE in college football but to this point Gundy hasn't wanted to run that kind of offense or use that weapon. It has absolutely nothing to do with Jalani Woods ability to catch a football.
Marshall Levenson
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Dantana said:

What a croc of bull! Jalani Woods caught the ball just fine at Virginia. A pass catching tight end is HUGE in college football but to this point Gundy hasn't wanted to run that kind of offense or use that weapon. It has absolutely nothing to do with Jalani Woods ability to catch a football.
He had a 52.2 receiving grade in three seasons at OSU. He has a 27% drop rate in 2020.

He had a 82.8 receiving grade at UVA. He had a 10% drop rate in 2021.

He simply just did not play as well at OSU.

Smileypoke
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Keep a close eye on instate TE's for sure. Broken Arrow will have a TE fitting the new mold. 6'5 215 in off season. Class of 2023. Would love to visit. Zach Seibert.
CowboyFan4Life
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Austin Jarrard's style is similar to Blake Jarwin. He's fast and great at receiving also.
CowboyFan4Life
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I hope they utilize their TE's that can receive. It will be a game changer for sure.
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