Since the departure of Derek Fine, the Jayhawk tight end position has basically turned into a sixth offensive lineman as needed. Despite showing tremendous promise as early as a true freshman, Tim Biere wasn't used much in the passing game for Kansas as the wide receiving corps hit a stride in 2008 and 2009.
With a new staff, a new focus on balance and moving the football by whatever means necessary, that appears to be changing. Tim Biere had just seven catches in 2009. In 2010 the receivers will certainly play a major role, but what better option to relieve some of the pressure on a new quarterback than a tight end underneath who can provide a good set of hands and the ability to plow forward for a few yards after the catch.
Single, double and even triple tight end sets could be seen by the Jayhawks in 2010. It's a position with some talent top to bottom, a variety of styles and what might present one of the more optimistic position outlooks headed into the season.
Projected Depth Chart
The clear cut leader, Biere has been the guy at tight end since the departure of Derek Fine. While that time hasn't been extensive due to the past offense using a tight end sparingly, the time served has been very productive.
Heading into 2010, Biere figures to play a much larger role in the Jayhawk offense. His ability to catch the ball in traffic and truck over a few bodies before eventually being pushed out of bounds is a good option to have. Listed on the preseason Mackey watch list, Biere should be in for a breakout year and could prove to be the biggest benefactor from the coaching change following the 2009 season.
Dedeaux has provided solid depth throughout his career and his blocking is really where he can contribute to the team. With that in mind, a double tight end set would tend to lend itself to the running game more and with that Dedeaux could find his spot in his final season with the Jayhawks.
Personally I've been calling for a breakout from him for a year and a half now and while I'm still impressed with his physical stature, work ethic and measurables, I guess I will remain cautiously optimistic about his potential to contribute.
AJ Steward has always been caught in a little bit of no mans land. Not quite the speed the Jayhawks wanted in the slot, and didn't fit the mold of a blocking tight end like they needed. Without knowing exactly what the offense is going to look like Steward would seem to stand as good a chance as any when the situation calls for a player with good size, good hands and a little more athleticism than your typical tight end.
There were times this spring where the walk on from Iowa was working as the #2. McNulty certainly has good size and could fill the void if needed. His name hasn't been floated out there much this fall, but then again no one is asking about the tight ends because it appears to be the spot on the field with the most depth and stability.
6'4" 232 pound freshman. Smiley is a good looking prospect and has a high ceiling with Kansas. Coming out of seven on seven's and heading into fall camp he was viewed as a possible #2 on the depth chart, but as with any true freshman things sometimes change when the pads go on.
Don't rule him out in terms of contributing, but with the depth at the position it might not be a bad thing to see Smiley take a redshirt year in 2010.
Mundine was a linebacker and tight end a year ago. The previous staff projected him at linebacker, the current one as an h-back/tight end type. He was an explosive player at the position in high school and if he can develop that same type of contribution at this level, Kansas would obviously be pretty happy. 6'2" 226 when reporting, Mundine would also be an ideal redshirt candidate, but at this point it's hard to rule anyone out considering this is a new staff and a whole new look at EVERYONE's abilities.
Looking Beyond 2010
Obviously Kansas has Biere for one more season and two tight ends for the future in Smiley and Mundine. One would suspect that the staff will target one or more with the next class however as the Jayhawks will lose Biere and Steward after the 2011 season.
If two and three tight end sets are truly in the cards, it would be a good move to keep a nice stock moving through the program and with Chuck Long calling the offense, one would think that could very well be the case.