It's hard to believe that we're entering our 4th season since the Orange Bowl run. At that time Kansas had a reliable tight end in Derek Fine who went on to play in the NFL and stepping into his shoes a year later was a young Tim Biere.
Personnel issues on the offensive line and the need to protect the quarterback have led to Biere being used primarily in a blocking role early in his career but against Missouri late in his sophomore year and at times last season Kansas fans saw glimpses of what he is able to do.
Fast forward to Spring and Kansas finally seems to have a good blend of depth and options surrounding their anchor at the position and the flexibility and personnel options at the Jayhawks disposal will hopefully lead to this position being utilized the way many envisioned it when Turner Gill and Chuck Long took over the Kansas offense.
Tim Biere - 6'4" 260 - Senior(86)
Tim Biere enters his fourth year with the Jayhawks and he's been a productive member of the team since arriving on campus following the Jayhawks Orange Bowl season. Biere is a reliable blocker and that's probably been his biggest contribution as the Jayhawks have been breaking in new left tackles since the departure of Anthony Collins following that year.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawk Biere has a whole lot more potential than that and that started to show itself last season when he had his most productive year recording 20 receptions for 283 yards. The reality is, that's not enough. Biere is capable of more and Kansas now has a handful of tight ends that can provide some reliable targets for whoever it is that wins out at quarterback.
The good news is that Biere does provide a reliable veteran presence and with the running game taking a more prominent role and with any improvement in the passing game, Biere should see plenty of snaps and provide a solid player for the Jayhawks in his final year.
Jimmay Mundine - 6'2" 226 - Freshman(41)
If there was one name that was brought up over and over when discussing redshirts from a season ago it was Mundine. While he hasn't taken a snap at the division one level Mundine spent most of last fall torching the Kansas defense as a scout team player for the practice squad offense. The work put in was enough to earn Mundine "compete" team player of the year honors handed out following the 2010 season. Granted that isn't necessarily a huge endorsement based on the struggles defensively a year ago, but the message is consistent and the message is clear that this is a player to watch.
Mundine is listed on the current roster at 226 but I'm fairly confident that number is low from what I've heard. This is a player that has put in the work, has some pretty big expectations and enthusiasm heading into Spring and eventually fall. Mundine probably falls into that "utility" mold like an AJ Steward or a player that can stand up and put a hand down whereas Biere is more a traditional tight end build. Both are athletic and Mundine provides some talented youth and added depth heading into Spring.
AJ Steward - 6'3" 233 - Senior(11)
Steward is an interesting situation. He's a converted quarterback who is physically a gifted looking player when going by the eyeball test. Several have commented that he has an excellent work ethic and I personally have hoped for a breakout season for several years now. Some of those efforts have been derailed by injury, while in other areas Steward has just seemed to come up short when it comes to playing time. Steward has one more go around and with the competition at the position as stiff as ever he'll need to make some noise this Spring to stay in line for minutes this fall.
Ted McNulty - 6'5" 230 - Senior(43)
McNulty saw some decent time last year both as a backup tight end in Stewards absence and on special teams. Certainly the value of quality players on special teams can't be overstated and that's one of the biggest values that this walk on brings to the table. Throw in his experience from a year ago and 2011 representing his last go around and McNulty should push the competition at the position which is one of Turner Gill's primary objectives when it comes to improving this team.
Trent Smiley - 6'4" 232 - Freshman(46)
Heading out of fall Mundine was probably the most talked about freshman at the position but heading into fall Smiley was viewed as a player that has a bright future at the position. Smiley, like Mundine, was a valuable contributor on the compete team during his redshirt season and while he seemed to maintain a lower profile than his teammate, there have been some great comments regarding his potential in the future for Kansas.
Again, it's about competion. Biere would seem to be the frontrunner at the position with McNulty and Steward being the two primary veteran presences, but both Smiley could push for time right up there with Mundine if he can put together a nice Spring.
Justin Puthoff - 6'3 252 - Sophomore(38)
Puthoff is a walk on and special teams contributor from a year ago. He's been at fullback, linebacker and now settles in at tight end for Spring of 2011. Expectations for Puthoff will be that he continues to provide special teams support and depth at a position that has a lot of scholarship talent at the top.
Chris McEnaney - 6'3' 225 - Freshman(85)
A bit of a mystery. McEnaney is listed as a freshman out of high school with a number assigned already similar to our other mid years like Dylan Admire and Darrian Miller. From what I can gather he's not a surprise signing or anything, most likely a walk on and perhaps it should list him as a redshirt freshman. Either way, he's on the roster...he's a tight end, so we'll mention him.
Five Questions Entering Spring Practice
Will Kansas have the opportunity to start using the tight ends as tight ends? A year ago this looked like a position where Tim Biere could act as a nice little safety valve while breaking in a new quarterback. That was attempted but in the end the tight end never seemed to take on a prominent role in the offense.
Does Jimmay Mundine live up to the HYPE! Yes sports fans love hope, hype and the what if and Jimmay Mundine was the player most often mentioned as an impact redshirt freshman by Turner Gill directly. Does Kansas get him involved early and often and can he deliver?3
Can Tim Biere emerge as a leader for this team? Biere had a rough first game a year ago against NDSU but he is a reliable and solid player at the position that his teammates respect. Early word is that he looks well equipped for a strong senior season and if Biere can step up as a leader for the Jayhawks he could put in a memorable senior year.
What if any role does the "utility" position play? Last season McNulty and Steward were listed as utility players, H-Back types if you will. That notation seems to have gone by the wayside but has the idea behind it? Steward, Mundine and Smiley are all athletic tight ends, even Biere moves extremely well for a player his size. Kansas needs to use that.
Tight end is a spot with a good mix of depth. The Jayhawks have proven experience in Tim Biere, they have veterans that could emerge in Steward and McNulty and they have some young talent that a lot of folks are excited about in Mundine and Smiley. All in all it's a position that should be a strength for Kansas this Fall and Spring is all about getting quality reps and hopefully finding a way to utilize the depth and talent within an offensive gameplan.