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Is Mizzou’s next star tight end currently on the roster?

Mizzou has a long history of star tight ends. Is the next one currently wearing black and gold?

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2023 season approaches, we’re asking our football staff to answer a series of questions facing the Mizzou Tigers. Read along to get their takes on who should start, who will shine and who will leave their mark on the season.

AJ Ofodile.

Chase Coffman.

Michael Egnew.

Martin Rucker.

Albert Okwuegbunam.

Mizzou has had quite a few talented tight ends grace their halls. And while they’re far from the only school to claim such a lineage, it stands out more at a school like ours than in Tuscaloosa or Athens, doesn’t it? Since Albert O left, Eli Drinkwitz has been trying to find the next man up on the outside of the Tigers’ line. So let’s ask...

Mizzou has a storied history of tight ends who make a difference for the offense. Is the Tigers’ next star tight end currently on the roster?

Quentin Corpuel, Staff Writer: …I don’t think so? This is an awfully high expectation to live up to, but compared to past star tight ends we’ve seen don the black and gold, I don’t think there’s anyone on the current roster who I can see reaching the level of say, Chase Coffman or Martin Rucker.

However, I think there’s room for substantial improvement. Tyler Stephens still possesses a high ceiling as a pass-catcher. Ryan Hoerstkamp will hopefully build off of the flashes we saw from him as a blocker and a pass-catcher last season. Max Whisner is a year older, and Brett Norfleet is a promising freshman who showed off some gnarly blocking skills in high school.

Again, achieving superstardom as a Mizzou tight end is a difficult bar to clear. Rucker, Michael Egnew and Kellen Winslow, Sr. were All-Americans. Albert Okwuegbunam was a freakishly athletic production machine. Coffman was both a walking highlight reel and literally the best tight end in the nation in 2008. While I don’t think any of Mizzou’s current tight ends can reach those heights, a meaningful step forward is certainly in the cards.

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: Unless something drastic changes, Mizzou will not have a true “star” tight end while Eliah Drinkwitz is at the helm. That’s no knock on Drinkwitz, nor on the tight ends who have played under him. I am merely emphasizing the point that Drinkwitz’s offense does not put the ball in the hands of the tight end very often, a trend that has permeated throughout college football. A prime case can be seen in Columbia now, as Kirby Moore’s offenses at Fresno State largely utilized four wide receivers as opposed to putting an extra hand on the ground.

A star tight end translates to roughly 700+ receiving yards, 8+ TDs and above average blocking ability in my eyes. I doubt we see any one player tick all of those boxes in the near future, but it is still certainly possible that someone can emerge and become a quality piece at tight end. For the Tigers to take that proverbial next step as a program, they may need that to occur.

If I’m picking any one player, I’ll back Brett Norfleet. With a 6-foot-7 frame and ample opportunity to receive playing time early on in his career, I can see him becoming a key piece on this roster by the time he is an upperclassmen.

Twitter: @MizzouFootball

Jaden Lewis, Beat Writer: Is the next start tight end, meaning someone of the caliber of Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker, Michael Egnew, Albert Okwuegbunam, or dare I say Kellen Winslow? Personally, I don’t think so.

In the first three seasons of the Eli Drinkwitz era, the production of the tight end group has been way under what would be considered a “star.” Niko Hea lead all tight ends on the roster in 2020 with just 14 receptions for 130 yards and two scores. In 2021, it was Hea again with 145 yards, while Daniel Parker had three scores. Last season, it was Tyler Stephens with 54 yards on five receptions. Coffman, Ruker, and Egnew all had seasons with 750-plus receiving yards, while Okwuegbunam was a touchdown machine his freshman season. Winslow was one of the best pass-catching threats by 1970s standards.

I don’t expect there to be a huge emphasis on getting tight ens the ball in 2023. Looking at Kirby Moore’s offense at Fresno State, the leading tight end was Raymond Pauwels, with 21 receptions, 185 yards, and a pair of scores. This made him the sixth leading receiver for the 10-4 Bulldogs. Tyler Stephens and Ryan Hoerstkamp are a year older, and Brett Norfleet offers some promise so we’ll see, but I doubt that there is the next “star” in the SEC’s tight end U.