The SEC may be known for its wide receivers, but they weren’t the only ones making plays in passing offenses. Tight ends shined in 2014 with several players enjoying breakout seasons.
Ole Miss’ Evan Engram was the conference’s top player with a league-best 662 yards and two touchdowns on 38 catches.
The upcoming season should see similar results with several of the conference’s best tight ends set to return. With the college football season less than two weeks away, here’s a look at the SEC’s top-five tight ends for 2015.
5. Steven Scheau, Vanderbilt
While Vanderbilt failed to find a consistent No. 1 option at wide receiver, its tight end group was solid in 2015. Scheu led the Commodores with 525 receiving yards and tied for a team-best four touchdowns.
He also led Vanderbilt with 39 catches. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end excels as both a receiving option and blocker and should remain a key factor in the team’s offense.
Scheau should remain the top receiving option for a struggling Commodores offense that also lacked stability at quarterback. With the position’s starter still in question, the senior tight end will need to provide a security option in a weak passing attack for whoever is under center in 2015.
4. Jeb Blazevich, Georgia
Blazevich had an impressive debut season, but was overshadowed by the dominance of fellow freshman teammate Nick Chubb. The 6-5, 232-pound tight end had 269 yards and two touchdowns on 18 receptions and was the Bulldogs’ third-leading receiver.
Like Scheau, Blazevich expects to add to his totals this season as he figures to serve as a security blanket for expected starting quarterback Brice Ramsey. The sophomore should also see weaker coverage as plays develop from playing alongside the SEC’s best rushing offense.
3. O.J. Howard, Alabama
Howard was expected to be one of the SEC’s best tight ends in 2014, but went without a reception in five of Alabama’s 14 games. He managed to finish fourth in receiving yards, but failed to record a single touchdown.
Howard should see an increased role with the departures of Biletnikoff winner Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White. However, Lane Kiffin may opt to switch back to a run-oriented offense with questions at wide receiver and the emergence of Derrick Henry.
Still, Howard expects to be a more valued option in 2015 and should see a spike in production regardless of who wins Alabama’s quarterback battle.
2. Hunter Henry, Arkansas
The SEC featured a two-man race between Arkansas’ Hunter Henry and Engram for the conference’s best tight end last season. Besides one another, the competition wasn’t even close.
Henry finished with 513 yards on 37 catches — both second among Arkansas receivers. He also had a pair of touchdowns and averaged 39.5 yards per game, despite playing in one of the most run heavy offenses in college football.
While his statistics may never be as high as Engram, who plays in a more pass oriented offense, Henry is a future NFL prospect who could leave early after a stellar junior campaign in 2015.
But he will first need to play a major role in the rising Razorbacks’ success as the team looks to make a jump from finishing seventh in the SEC West.
1. Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Once again, Engram was the best tight end in the SEC. He was a first team All-SEC, second team All-American and a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award — given to the nation’s best tight end.
He led the nation’s tight ends with 17.4 yards per catch and set a single-season school record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2014. Entering his junior season, Engram ranks top four in Ole Miss history in career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end.
He has been named as a preseason All-American and to the John Mackey Award watch list by several media outlets. In 2015, Engram should continue his success as the SEC’s top tight end in what is expected to be another dominant Rebels offense.