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2021 Position Postmortem: Tight Ends

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A review of the tight end performance for the 2021 season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2021 season officially over, it’s time to break down the performance of the team position by position. We’ll look at the stats for the year, the departing players, new additions, and some predictions for what we’ll see in 2022.

It’s time to look at the gaping black hole that is the tight end unit.

2021 Missouri Tight End Receiving Stats

The 2007 Missouri Tiger offense was a warp-speed, high-flying, equal-opportunity-distribution-based offense that featured a Heisman-caliber quarterback distributing the ball to elite skill position players across the board. A 1,000+ yard rusher and a 1,000+ yard receiver were complemented by two All-American upperclassmen tight ends who combined for 136 catches, 1,365 yards, and 15 touchdowns through the air.

The 2013 Missouri Tiger offense was a little more plodding than their ‘07 counterparts and focused more on a competent ground game powered by a 1,000+ yard rusher and a quarterback who could also punish defenders while getting short yardage on the ground. It also relied on one of the tallest receiving corps in school history to win jump balls and create mismatches in the passing game. However, it mostly used their upperclassmen tight ends to block as the position group finished with 9 catches, 78 yards, and a single touchdown on the year.

Either version can work, clearly, but you do need to have some experienced tight ends to pull it off.

The 2022 Missouri Tiger offense, as of right now, does not have that.

Look at the receiving stats posted above: every tight end that caught a pass in 2021 is gone. And the three tight ends who played in most of the games and accounted for most of the snaps are either somewhere else or done with their career.

Missouri’s tight end experience is - currently - a dude who played in the bowl game and saw some snaps at the end of two other games. That’s it.

The Drinkwitz offense hasn’t featured a #TightEndPassingGame in his two years on campus, but would certainly showcase such an entertaining display if they had a tight end to feature. And while the three gentlemen in the tight end room are young and athletic, it’s all potential and zero results for now. That is both exciting and terrifying. Welcome to Missouri Football!

The Departed

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As previously mentioned, any tight end with actual proven game experience is gone.

Daniel Parker, Jr. was the only member of the “Tiger 10” to commit to Missouri in 2018. He proved to be a tremendous blocker and a timely pass catcher while also being a...very online dude. He had one extra year of eligibility if he wanted to take it and he chose to use it by transferring to Oklahoma to finish his career.

Messiah Swinson was cursed with the “new guy that the Odom staff can’t stop talking up” but only managed to break into the tight end rotation in 2021 and finished his Missouri career with 7 catches for 84 yards. He’ll try to get more playing time for Herm Edwards’ Arizona State Sun Devils.

Niko Hea was a late-developing prospect out of St. Louis’ CBC. In fact, he was so under-the-radar that he wasn’t even rated in Rivals or 247 when he committed. But he was able to carve out a niche early in his career as a reliable passing target and a decent run blocker. He retired for medical reasons at the end of the 2021 season.

The Returners

@RyanHoerstkamp Twitter

If you’ve listened to the podcast at any point in the last year, you know BK already has Ryan Hoerstkamp’s multiple Heismans polished and ready for delivery. And while THE HORSE - as we affectionately refer to him as - certainly flashed a lot of potential in his time at Washington High School, he only made an appearance in four games last year, and only received significant snaps in the bowl game against Army. He had some decent blocks but was never targeted by either Bazelak nor Cook.

Gavin McKay is a slightly taller, much lankier version of THE HORSE and took a redshirt season to bulk up beyond his current 219 pound heft. McKay’s high school film featured his “big receiver”-style tight end play as he was able to bully and box out defenders for the ball. He’ll certainly have an opportunity to do that and more, in this upcoming year as long as he’s hit the weight room and eaten enough “midnight chicken breast bulk up” meals to get to a competitive weight.

The Freshman

Are those zubaz pants?
247 Sports

2021 stats: 11 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs

The first guy to commit to Missouri from the 2022 class - way back in September of 2020 - could also be in the running to see some immediate playing time. If his high school measurements of 6’6”, 240 pounds are to be believed, he certainly has the size necessary to stand up to SEC defenses. Whisner wasn’t much of a passing threat in the ten games he played in during his senior season at Lee’s Summit, but he walks in to an obviously thin position group that needs bodies to absorb snaps. If he can be as effective of a tight end as he was a recruiter for his fellow Class of ‘22 signees, bright days are ahead for the biggest scholarship tight end on the roster.

2022 Forecasting

  • Prediction: Ryan Hoerstkamp gets starter-level snaps, Whisner backs him up, McKay is utilized as a passing-option tight end.
  • Bold Prediction: A Missouri tight end will end the season with more than 500 yards receiving for the first time since 2011
  • HOT TAKE: Ryan Hoerstkamp and Max Whisner start going by the fun, dynamic-duo name “HORSE WHIZ” after signing an NIL deal with a local equine fertilization center.