With the hiring of Charlie Weis, a pretty big opportunity presented itself at the tight end position. Weis has worked in organizations that have been pretty effective at utilizing the tight end and during his time at Notre Dame he was able to bring in some fairly high profile tight ends because of his offense and his reputation with the position.
Now Weis begins his tenure at Kansas and the Jayhawks will turnover most of the experienced players at the position with the graduation of Tim Biere, AJ Steward and Ted McNulty. That means the Jayhawks are going to be inexperienced, but it still looks to be a position that will have some upside and one incoming transfer certainly has an opportunity to provide some major stability.
|Puthoff, Justin||6-2||252||Tight End||JR (1L)||Goddard, Kan./Goddard HS|
Puthoff is a local product that is a walk on for the Kansas program entering his junior season. He's bounced around from fullback to linebacker to his most recent position at tight end. He's one of the upperclassmen in this group and walk-ons can be an important part of the program, but most of his contributions will likely come on special teams.
|Barlow, Neal||6-5.5||220||Tight End||JR (TR)||Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski Academy/Arkansas|
Barlow is an interesting case. He's a very long and lean player that was listed as a wideout during his time at Arkansas and last year during his first season under Turner Gill. He is making the move to tight end under Weis and at the immediate moment he would seem to fit the mold of a flex type tight end more than a hand on the ground extension of the offensive line. Barlow was highly recruited out of high school and after some setbacks he'll look to get back on track. This could be a wrinkle for the offense and a chance for Barlow to make the most of a second chance.
|Smiley, Trent||6-4||248||Tight End||SO (1L)||Frisco, Texas/Wakeland HS|
Smiley was the player in this group that seemed to make the most noise last season although it wasn't much. With three seniors at the position reps were at a premium, but Smiley did find his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman. He is someone who could potentially gain a great deal with this coaching change as he has good size and the ability to play a more traditional tight end role at the Big 12 level. The challenge will obviously be in having to reprove himself and the increased competition that will come to this position with a pair of transfers this fall.
|Mundine, Jimmay||6-2||240||Tight End||SO (1L)||Denison, Texas/Denison HS|
Mundine is a bit of a question mark. The new staff seems high on him, the old staff was very high on him. The issue has always seemed to be something away from the football field or behind the scenes. The tolerance for that type of thing has diminished significantly with the new staff and yet Mundine finds himself at the top of the depth chart heading into spring practice. That would seem to indicate that he might have flipped the switch so to speak and if Mundine is turning a corner, that could be very good for Kansas at the tight end position moving forward.
|Baron, Scott||6-2.5||237||Tight End||FR (RS)||Santa Ana, Calif./Orange Lutheran HS|
Baron is a preferred walk on that was added late last year. Again these are nice depth pieces, but special teams and scout team are his most likely contributions at this point.
Mike Ragone - 6'4" 250 Sr and Charles Brooks 6'5" 245 Jr
Ragone and Brooks will transfer in at the end of the semester with the goal of playing immediately. These are not spring ball participants so they normally wouldn't fall into this preview, but given the impact that both could have it's worth mentioning their impending arrival. Both have the size to play immediately, Ragone is a Notre Dame product and Brooks is an impressive athlete.
Ragone is a former Weis recruit and like Crist he already has an existing relationship and the trust of the head man. One would also have to assume that he's not coming to Kansas unless he believes there is a VERY good chance that he starts and plays significant minutes.
Ragone is probably going to be the guy to beat when he comes in this fall. After that you have Brooks, Mundine and Smiley competing for additional reps. The one thing that works in Mundine and Smiley's favor is that they are on campus now and have a chance to take the bulk of the reps this spring. That gives them a chance to prove themselves now and that could change the competition heading into fall.
All four will likely play, it's just going to depend on how impressive Smiley and Mundine are in seizing the opportunity this spring. Other factors that will play into this would likely be how much the offensive line comes together and how Weis chooses to use the position in year one. Does he need the extra blocker and a more traditional hand on the ground type of tight end? Or can he get creative and do some of the things that he's been known to do with more athletic types of players at the position.
One thing is for sure, this should hopefully be a spot where we stop talking about the potential to use this position and we start seeing a system that uses the talent and/or develops talent at the position.