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2022 Position Postmortem: Tight Ends

A review of the tight end performance for the 2022 season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 19 New Mexico St. at Missouri

With the 2022 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 2023.

It’s time to look at a position group that allegedly exists on the roster, the tight ends.

I usually post the season stats graphic at the top of these articles but, first...


How many times do you think a tight end was targeted in the passing game for the entire 2022 season?

I’m not asking for catches, you can easily look that up.

I’m asking, “How often did Brady Cook attempt to throw a pass at a gentleman who has the position of ‘tight end’ listed on the official Mizzou athletics website football roster?”.

I’ll give you a second.

And I’ll give you some guide posts as well!

Three tight ends caught a pass in ‘22, and they combined to run 183 routes on the year.

Do you have your answer?

Good! Here you go:

2022 Missouri Tight End Receiving Stats

The answer is 15. Over 183 routes run, Missouri tight ends were targeted 15 times, catching 10 balls for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

On the one hand: that is an excellent catch rate! And no drops!

On the other hand: what the hell?

After three years it seems like Eli Drinkwitz just straight up hates using tight ends in the passing game. And as the school that - in my mind, anyway - will forever be “Tight End U” thanks to Kellen Winslow, Martin Rucker, Chase Coffman, Michael Egnew, and Albert Okwuegbunam, it is a got dang shame that the past three years have featured jack squat from the tight end position.

Let’s run it back! Here is the passing data for Mizzou tight ends since 2018. See if you can figure out when Eli Drinkwitz took over:

  • 2018 (Albert O, Kendall Blanton, Daniel Parker, Jr.): 100 targets, 71 catches, 706 yards, 9 TDs
  • 2019 (Albert O, DPJ, Niko Hea): 74 targets, 44 catches, 476 yards, 6 TDs
  • 2020 (Niko Hea, DPJ, Logan Christopherson): 36 targets, 27 catches, 252 yards, 2 TDs
  • 2021 (Niko Hea, DPJ, Messiah Swinson): 57 targets, 35 catches, 288 yards, 5 TDs
  • 2022 (Tyler Stephens, Kibet Chepyator, Ryan Hoerstkamp): 15 targets, 10 catches, 112 yards, 2 TDs
  • 2022 Fresno State Tight Ends (for comparison): 46 targets, 34 catches, 288 yards, 2 TDs

How much of the decline is due to a “lack of a play-making, pass-catching tight end” versus “scheme that doesn’t utilize the tight end as a viable pass-catching option?” Probably a little of both, frankly. And it is true that, outside of Tyler Stephens, Mizzou in ‘22 didn’t have a single tight end who had caught a pass or taken meaningful snaps at the college level. So inexperience is playing into that as well.

Still, it would be nice to have a #TightEndPassingGame return at the school that featured the guy that revolutionized the position, and the two guys that helped revolutionize personnel schemes. Missouri without a pass-catching tight end is just wrong. WRONG.

The Departed

Missouri v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

The walk-on from Carol Stream, IL, Kibet Chepyator was pressed into service early in the season, mostly as a run blocker. Before the ‘22 campaign he had earned one target — you probably remember a Brady Cook deep shot late in the bowl game against Army, Chepyator was the target — before being targeted six times in the first four games, including a 3 target/3 catch day against Auburn. He then was mostly phased out of the rotation by Ryan Hoerstkamp before earning his last target as a Tiger against New Mexico State. Walk-ons are expected to do everything scholarship players do on top of running the scout team offense of the week and, of course, doing it all for “the love of the game” which is no easy feat. So, a tip of the cap to Mr. Chepyator being able to see the field and provide snaps for a position lacking in experience.

The Returners

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Georgia at Missouri
Returning Tight End Stats

Good news: Missouri returns every scholarship tight end!

Bad news: half of them have yet to play a snap at the collegiate level!

I never want to be seen as someone who is pushing players out - I don’t want that ever! - but, frankly, I’m shocked Gavin McKay is still here. Stephens and Hoerstkamp saw the majority of snaps last year and Whisner is more in-line with the type of tight end Drinkwitz likes to utilize. McKay is a shorter, lighter version of the other guys and I just don’t see a path for him to start. But I’m glad he’s still here! Hopefully Kirby Moore finds a way to utilize his skill set.

Whisner completed his redshirt year and hopefully can start working his way into the rotation. BK’s golden child, Ryan “THE HORSE” Hoerstkamp, had that great touchdown against NMSU but mostly just blocked while Tyler “Smitharrow” Stephens had that memorable touchdown grab against Georgia...and that’s it.

The mind always hopes the young guys can either push or usurp the established dudes, but considering 75% of the tight ends are young guys, I feel pretty confident that all four returnees have a shot at seeing the field. Whether they do, or not, is OF COURSE determined by how well they practice.

The Freshman

Sports Illustrated

2022 stats: 9 catches, 107 yards, 2 touchdowns

Here’s another fun stat for you: Missouri has only signed four blue-chip tight ends since the advent of the high school recruiting website era. Can you name them?

And, yes, most of them happened a long time ago.

Like...pre-2010 long time ago.

If you name them all you win a free life time subscription to Rock M Nation.

The list:

  • Zach Zwilling (‘02)
  • Josh Barbo (‘03)
  • Andrew Jones (‘08)
  • Daniel Parker, Jr. (‘18)

Brett Norfleet becomes the fifth blue-chip tight end recruited to Mizzou since 2000 and, hopefully, can have a more dynamic impact than the gentlemen who came before him. Norfleet is certainly SEC sized - Francis Howell lists him as 6’7” 225 - but, as usual, a year in the “gun club” as Mizzou will probably be needed to build him back up to handle SEC defenders. Norfleet joins Sam Horn as another baseball guy on the team, but - just like Horn - his scholarship is provided by the football team and he will be a football player first and foremost. He enters a young and unproven unit so there is always the chance that he sees the field, but it’s most likely we won’t see anything meaningful from him until 2024.

2023 Forecasting

  • Prediction: Tyler Stephens and Ryan Hoerstkamp get starter-level snaps, Whisner backs both of them up with the hope of siphoning away snaps from one of those two.
  • Bold Prediction: A Missouri tight end will end the season with more than 500 yards receiving for the first time since 2011
  • HOT TAKE: Kirby Moore, sleeping in his office one night, accidentally falls out of chair and lands with an odd thunk near an oddly-colored carpet piece near his desk. As he taps the area again he continues to hear an almost hollow sounding ringing on what he thought was sturdy floor. He then starts to forcibly punch at the floor as the echoes yield to crashing thwacks and, eventually, Moore - with surprising ease - punches a hole in the floor to find a secret, rectangular compartment aligned perpendicular to his desk. Clearing his head to make sure this isn’t a dream, he bravely - or foolishly - begins rooting around the compartment until his fingers brush against a firm, but movable, item that feels of worn leather and dust. He taps his fingers around the item to gauge the size and manages to wrap around a portion of the object, lifting it to the dim lighting of his office to find a well-worn book. But what kind of book is it? With no identifying markers on the spine or cover, Moore cracks open the tome and leafs through the dusty pages, coughing and squinting through the dust to attempt to read the scribble left on the folio. Finally, he flips on the full lights of his office, rubs the sleep from his eye, and sees a lone sentence emblazoned on the first page: “How to make your tight ends f***ing good”. His eyes scatter to the bottom of the page, with a name accompanied by a signature. The signature is hopeless but the name rings true: Dave Christensen. “Yes, yes...this could be it!” Moore thinks to himself as he tucks it into his drawer labeled “good plays and stuff” and drifts back to sleep, dreaming of Chase Coffman reincarnate.