Last year, the UMass Minutemen did not have what some may consider a productive year. Winning just one game in a tough MAC division, there was still plenty of talent on the team. As a whole, things look much better this year at nearly every position so let’s take a look at who will be playing tight end for the Minutemen this year.
As a whole, the tight end position is not a strong point. They lost Rob Blachflower to the NFL as he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last round this year. Finding a replacement for him will be tough, especially with such limited options. There are however, some good upper classmen who should see a lot of playing time this year.
A rising junior who started a few games last year, Rodney Mills will definitely log some more playing time this year. Playing in every game while starting in four of those contests, Mills was not targeted much but managed to catch five passes for a grand total of 47 yards. Expect Mills to catch some more passes this year and split time at tight end with Brandon Howard.
A Norfolk, Mass native who graduated from Worcester Academy and King Phillip High School, Brandon Howard has the potential for a breakout year. Although he did not start last year, he played in every game. He caught four passes totaling 55 yards, but standing at 6ft5 weighing in at 250lbs he is also be a great blocker and played on kick return last year. He along with Mills should be the main tight end targets for the Minutemen this year.
A 27-year-old junior college transfer, there are high hopes for tight end Jean Sifrin. At an age where most NFL guys already retired, Sifrin is just starting his division one career. Standing tall at 6ft7 weighing at 250lbs, there is no question as to whether or not he can play tight end. Last year he caught 18 passes for 328 yards totaling five touchdowns. One of the oldest players on the team with little experience, there is no question as to whether or not he will be used. He definitely will be because there would be no point in bringing in a guy that old to ride the bench. Even if all he does is block, he is still contributing to the team and could serve as a valuable backup.
The other junior college transfer now playing for the Minutemen is Jon Denton. Denton played in nine games racking up 37 yards receiving. A large fellow at 6ft6 weighing in at 260lbs, his highlight reels show him blocking, not catching balls. In high school however, he did obtain 471 receiving yards as a senior. Expect Denton to be used solely for blocking purposes for the Minutemen this and next year.
Overall, the Minutemen look set at tight end. Odds are though, tight ends will not be targeted nearly as much this year in the spread offense. What it really comes down to is the fact that the Minutemen really just do not have anyone who can replace Blanchflower as a star tight end. Sure they can get some blocking from the position, but they will not rely heavily on the position for yards this year.