They are the big targets quarterbacks throw to on clutch plays.
Tight ends are often the most reliable pass catchers on the field, but their blocking has to be just as effective as their receiving skills. The elite ones give signal-callers options, by locating and snagging the ball at its’ highest point.
There’s nothing like a quarterback extending a play and finding an open tight end down the sidelines for a first down. These 15 studs are all coming off successful campaigns in 2021, and will be looking to build on their success as spring ball kicks off.
15. Gavin Bartholomew, Pittsburgh: The Pennsylvania native generated 28 catches as a true freshman last season for the ACC Champs. Bartholomew showed he was a reliable target with three receptions for 48 yards in the win over New Hampshire. He displayed soft hands with a touchdown catch in victories over Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse. His five catches for 50 receiving yards against the Orangemen were both season-highs. Bartholomew is primed to build on last year’s numbers, but will be operating under a new Offensive Coordinator and quarterback. Regardless, former USC Trojan Kedon Slovis is a gunslinger, who’ll build immediate chemistry with Bartholomew.
14. Kamari Morales, North Carolina: The former three-star prospect put up some solid numbers last season for the Tar Heels. Morales went on an impressive streak and caught a touchdown in four-straight games against Virginia, Georgia Tech, Duke and Florida State. His seven receptions against the Yellow Jackets were a season-high. The Florida native also hauled in a touchdown pass in the victory over Wofford. The six-foot-one, 242-pound Morales is primed for his best season yet in 2022, but he won’t have record-breaking quarterback Sam Howell throwing him balls. However, Morales lined up alongside All-ACC receiver Josh Downs will make a smooth transition for the new Tar Heel signal-caller.
13. Kemore Gamble, UCF: The Miami native hauled in 31 passes last season at Florida. Gamble als tied for first on the Gators in touchdown catches. He caught five balls against Alabama and four for 64 yards at LSU. Gamble had six receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Samford, which were all season-highs. The former four-star prospect also caught a touchdown in wins over Tennessee and Florida State. Not to mention Gamble averaged 26.6 yards per reception against the Seminoles. It’s kind of ironic that he transferred to the Knights during the offseason, considering that’s the team the Gators lost to in their bowl game, but Gamble will be closer to home.
12. Ryan Jones, East Carolina: The former four-star prospect originally played linebacker at Oklahoma for a couple of seasons before he transferred to East Carolina in 2020. Jones made his mark in the AAC last year with 37 receptions for 442 yards and five scores. He caught a touchdown in the season-opener against Appalachian State. Not to mention Jones found the endzone against Tulane, Temple and Navy. His six receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Owls were all season-highs. The Charlotte native stockpiled 70 receiving yards apiece against Memphis and Cincinnati. Jones will be one of the best tight ends in the AAC this fall.
11. Aubry Payne, Georgia State: The former two-star prospect originally committed to Western Carolina back in 2017. Payne only caught one ball through the Panthers’ first five games last season. However, he turned it up a notch, with 24 receptions, including seven touchdowns over the final eight contests. The six-foot-four, 235-pounder hauled in six passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Louisiana-Monroe. Payne also had a touchdown reception in victories over Texas State, Coastal Carolina and Troy. The Georgia native saved his best performance for last, with a season-high, eight receptions, for 109 yards and two touchdowns in Georgia State’s bowl victory over Ball State.
10. Marshon Ford, Louisville: He had no stars behind his name out of high school, and was originally recruited as a linebacker. However, Ford led the Cardinals in receptions and receiving yards in 2021. The hometown kid caught eight balls for 100 yards and a touchdown in the win over Central Florida. Ford also had a touchdown catch in the victory over Duke, plus four receptions against Ole Miss. The six-foot-two, 240-pounder hauled in six passes apiece against Kentucky and Florida State. Ford finished with third-team, All-ACC honors. Not to mention Ford has 74 receptions, 859 yards and eight touchdown catches over the past two years with Louisville.
9. Payne Durham, Purdue: The Georgia native tied for second on the Boilermakers in touchdown catches last season. Durham hauled in seven passes for a season-high, 120 yards and two touchdowns in the opening win over Oregon State. The following week he caught four balls for 54 yards and a touchdown in the victory over Connecticut. Durham caught six passes at Notre Dame. Not to mention Durham had a season-high, nine receptions for 112 yards and a score against Wisconsin. The former three-star prospect left a lasting impression when he racked up five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl win over Tennessee. With David Bell off to the NFL, his production should improve.
8. Jaheim Bell, South Carolina: He’s the total package, with soft hands, great running skills and elite blocking. Bell executed whatever was required and tied for first on the Gamecocks in touchdown catches in 2021. His 30 receptions and 497 receiving yards ranked second on the team. Not to mention Bell averaged 16.5 yards per reception. The former three-star prospect caught a touchdown in the season-opening victory over Eastern Illinois. Bell had six catches for 136 yards and a score in the win over Vanderbilt. The six-foot-three, 230-pound Bell stockpiled 159 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in the bowl win over North Carolina, which were both season-highs.
7. Dalton Kincaid, Utah: The Las Vegas native originally committed to San Diego in 2018 before he transferred to Utah in 2020. Kinkaid led the Utes in touchdown catches, plus he finished third in receptions and receiving yards last season. He caught two touchdowns in the season-opening win over Weber State. The former two-star prospect set the conference on fire after he hauled in a touchdown pass against USC, UCLA, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Kinkaid caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. His four touchdown catches over Utah’s final five games, raised a ton of eyebrows across the league.
6. Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion: The former four-star prospect caught three balls in three seasons at Penn State. Kuntz transferred to Old Dominion in 2021 and led the Monarchs in receptions. He finished the year with first-team, All-C-USA honors. The six-foot-eight, 245-pounder uses his frame to his advantage. Kuntz caught a touchdown in the win over Liberty. The following week he caught a touchdown against Buffalo. The Pennsylvania native kept the momentum going with eight catches against UTEP, plus he found the endzone against Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee. Kuntz caught nine balls apiece, and went over 100 yards receiving against Western Kentucky and Florida International.
5. Cameron Latu, Alabama: The Utah native was Bryce Young’s safety net last season. Latu has the skills to make tough catches look effortless. He tied for second on the Crimson Tide with eight touchdown catches. Not to mention Latu finished third on the team in receiving yards, and averaged 15.7 per reception. Latu hauled in two touchdown passes in the season-opening win over Miami. The former four-star prospect also had two receiving scores in the victory over Southern Miss. Latu caught a touchdown against Ole Miss, New Mexico State, Cincinnati and Georgia. His five catches for 102 yards in the National Championship Game were both season-highs.
4. Brant Kuithe, Utah: The former three-star prospect caught 50 balls and led the Utes in receiving yards last season. Kuithe hauled in two touchdown passes in the win over Arizona State. He stockpiled a season-high, seven receptions against San Diego State. Not to mention Kuithe had a touchdown catch against BYU, Oregon State, Arizona, and Colorado. Kuithe racked up another season-high, 118 receiving yards in the first meeting against Oregon. The Texas native generated six catches for 77 yards in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. Kuithe finished the year with second-team, All-Pac-12 honors. Now the Utes will have the best tight end duo in the FBS with Kuithe and Kinkaid.
3. Sam LaPorta, Iowa: He led the Hawkeyes in receptions and receiving yards last season. LaPorta takes pride in his position at Tight End U, and is carrying on the program’s legacy. The Illinois native was Iowa’s ultimate safety blanket on clutch downs, and finished the season with third-team, All-Big Ten honors. LaPorta hauled in a season-high, seven passes, for 65 yards and a score in the win over Kent State. The following week he caught a touchdown against Colorado State. LaPorta had six receptions in the Big Ten Championship Game. The former three-star prospect stockpiled a season-high, 122 receiving yards and a touchdown against Kentucky.
2. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame: The former five-star prospect led the Fighting Irish in receptions last season. Mayer often times performed like a man among boys, and finished the year with third-team, AP All-America honors. He caught nine balls for a season-high, 120 yards and a touchdown in the opener at Florida State. Mayer hauled in two touchdown passes the following week in the win over Toledo. The Kentucky native also found the endzone in victories over Virginia and Georgia Tech. Not to mention Mayer eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards at Stanford. Mayer left a lasting impression with two touchdown receptions in the bowl game against Oklahoma State.
1. Brock Bowers, Georgia: The California native led the Bulldogs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches as a true freshman last season. Bowers was a matchup nightmare for defenders, plus he had 100-yard receiving games against UAB, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and Alabama. He caught two touchdowns apiece in five different contests. The former four-star prospect also hauled in a touchdown pass in the Playoff victory over Michigan. Not to mention Bowers caught a touchdown in the National Championship Game. Bowers stockpiled seven touchdown catches over Georgia’s final five games, and finished with first-team, All-SEC and USA Today All-America honors.
Josh Whyle, Cincinnati: The hometown kid finished with six touchdowns receptions last season. Whyle caught two touchdowns apiece in back-to-back wins over Navy and Tulane. He also scored against Miami (OH), and South Florida.
Christopher Toudle, NC State: Although he didn’t have a ton of production last season, the former three-star prospect still caught a touchdown against South Florida, Louisiana Tech, Florida State and Syracuse.
Joey Beljan, Western Kentucky: The New Jersey native delivered whenever his number was called. Beljan caught two touchdowns apiece against Michigan State and Florida Atlantic. He also scored against Rice and Appalachian State.
Corey Dyches, Maryland: He was somewhat sporadic last season, but showed potential. Dyches hauled in two touchdown passes in the win over Rutgers. He also had a receiving score against Kent State and Penn State.
Daniel Barker, Michigan State: The Florida native tied for first in touchdown receptions for Illinois last season. Barker caught two touchdowns against UTSA. He also hauled in a touchdown catch against Charlotte and Rutgers.