June 16, 2024

Ranking the Big Ten’s best tight ends of 2023

Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Ohio State tight end Cade Stover prepares to line up before a play in the fourth quarter against Iowa Saturday October 22, 2022 at Ohio Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

The conference will field some of the best tight ends in the country this fall this upcoming season.

These players have a variety of skills, but the most important ones are catching and blocking. Physicality is required in the blue-collar Big Ten. These studs have displayed all of those values to their respective teams, and will deliver when their numbers are called.

Most of them are coming off successful campaigns, and are ready to build off that momentum with the 2023 season less than two weeks away.

14. Hayden Rucci, Wisconsin: The Badgers will approach the upcoming season without their two most experienced tight ends from last year. Clay Cundiff and Jack Eschenbach combined for 23 catches, 262 yards and two touchdowns in 2022. So there’s a big void in production. Cundiff retired from football for medical reasons earlier this week. Eschenbach left the team voluntarily. Now Wisconsin has eight tight ends remaining on the roster, including Rucci. He’s a redshirt senior, and the most experienced out of the group. Rucci has played in 23 games, and has one career touchdown reception. New Offensive Coordinator Phil Longo’s Air Raid attack will amplify Rucci’s numbers though.

13. Aaron Steinfeldt, Indiana: The hometown kid played in all 12 games last season, and made two starts. Steinfeldt stands six-foot-five, and weighs 250 pounds, which makes him a big target in the Hoosiers’ aerial attack. He even worked on his lower body strength throughout the offseason. Steinfeldt caught two balls for 26 yards at Cincinnati. The former three-star prospect hauled in three passes, including a three-yard touchdown reception against Maryland. Steinfeldt, along with fellow Bloomington native James Bomba, will make a solid combo at tight end for Indiana this fall. Bomba is somewhat inexperienced, and only caught five balls last year, but has tremendous upside.

12. Nate Boerkircher, Nebraska: The Nebraska native backed up Travis Vokolek, but started four games as a redshirt freshman last season. Boerkircher is more on the slimmer side for a tight end, weighing 230 pounds on his six-foot-five frame. However, he made the most out of his opportunities when his number was called. Boerkircher had a career day in home-opening victory over North Dakota. He caught two passes, including a 19-yard touchdown against the Fighting Hawks. The former walk-on also recorded a catch against Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa. Boerkircher was finally awarded a scholarship back in May, and is poised for a breakout campaign on the gridiron.

11. Marshall Lang, Northwestern: The Cincinnati native has started 13 games over the past two seasons. During that span Lang caught 26 balls for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Last year he generated three receptions for 25 yards against Southern Illinois. The following week he also hauled in three passes, for a career-high, 39 yards against Miami (Ohio). Lang will play alongside Thomas Gordon again, who started six games in 2022, and finished with 162 receiving yards. Gordon recorded five catches for a career-high, 78 yards against Duke. He had 39 receiving yards in the lone victory over Nebraska. With better quarterback play this fall, Lang and Gordon should improve their numbers.

10. Paul Piferi, Purdue: The Boilermakers have to replace All-Big Ten tight end Payne Durham, and he’s the next man up. Piferi was Durham’s backup last season, but he started Purdue’s last two games. The Californian is a massive-sized tight end, standing six-foot-five, and weighing 260 pounds. What’s more impressive is the fact that he averaged 14.3 yards per catch. Piferi caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the victory over Indiana State. He also recorded a 26-yard reception against Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game. Piferi’s numbers should increase in Graham Harrell’s pass-happy offense. Quarterback Hudson Card is a solid gunslinger, who’ll find ways to nail the big target.

9. Tip Reiman, Illinois: The South Dakota native had no stars behind his name out of high school, but made an impact last season. Reiman is a huge tight end, standing six-foot-five, and weighing 270 pounds. He made 13 starts for the Fighting Illini, and caught at least one pass in 10 of those games. Reiman recorded 29 receiving yards in the victory at Nebraska. Not to mention he hauled in a career-high, four passes against Michigan State. Reiman even caught a two-yard touchdown pass in the win over Virginia. With All-Big Ten running back Chase Brown off to the NFL, Offensive Coordinator Barry Lunney will likely open up the passing game. Which means Reiman’s numbers should surge this fall.

8. Maliq Carr, Michigan State: The former four-star prospect caught at least one pass in 10 of the Spartans’ 12 games last year. Carr even hauled in a 72-yard pass against Wisconsin, which turned out to be a season-high. He generated two catches apiece against Minnesota, Rutgers and Penn State. Carr made a statement over the final two games. The Michigan native caught four passes, including a five-yard touchdown against Indiana. Carr caught a nine-yard touchdown against the Nittany Lions. Now he’s looking to build on his promising campaign. Carr is the leader of the tight end room, and will have a bigger role in the passing game with Keon Coleman no longer on the roster.

7. Colston Loveland, Michigan: The former four-star prospect is coming off a promising true freshman campaign. Loveland started five games in 2022, and averaged nearly 15 yards per catch. He caught fire down the stretch and performed like an All-Big Ten tight end. Loveland caught three balls for 50 yards against Illinois. Loveland hauled in a 45-yard touchdown pass at Ohio State. The Idaho native followed up that performance with a 25-yard touchdown reception in the Big Ten Championship Game. Loveland left a lasting impression with four catches in the Playoff semifinal against TCU. Coach Jim Harbaugh always has an elite tight end on deck, and Loveland should blossom.

6. Johnny Langan, Rutgers: The New Jersey native is a versatile weapon with his hands, arms and legs. Langan has started several games at quarterback and tight end throughout his career with the Scarlet Knights. Last season he threw a 43-yard touchdown, and recorded a receiving score in the victory over Wagner. Langan even generated 79 yards on the ground in the win at Temple. Not to mention he rushed for a score, and caught five balls for a season-high, 73 yards against Michigan State. Langan also had five receptions against Indiana. The six-foot-three, 245-pounder registered four receptions apiece against Iowa and Penn State. Langan left a lasting impression with 27-yard catch at Maryland.

5. Luke Lachey, Iowa: The Ohio native is one half of the Hawkeyes’ two-headed monster at tight end. Lachey backed up Sam LaPorta last season, but still finished first on the team in touchdown catches, and second in receiving yards. Now he’s poised to carry on the great legacy at Tight End U, along with new teammate Erick All. Lachey generated four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown against Michigan. Lachey hauled in a six-yard touchdown pass in the victory over Northwestern. The former three-star prospect caught five balls for 77 yards in the win over Minnesota. His seven catches for 89 yards against Nebraska were both season-highs. Lachey even caught a touchdown against Kentucky.

4. Theo Johnson, Penn State: The Canadian has started 15 games over the past two seasons for the Nittany Lions, and has 43 career receptions. Johnson is very fluid for a player that stands six-foot-six, and weighs 264 pounds. He averaged 16.4 yards per catch last year, which is the most by any returning tight end in the Big Ten. Johnson recorded a season-high, five receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown in the win over Minnesota. He hauled in four passes for 43 yards and a score in the victory over Indiana. The former four-star prospect caught two touchdowns against Michigan State. Johnson generated a 28-yard catch in the Rose Bowl against Utah, and earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors.

3. Cade Stover, Ohio State: The 23-year old is a converted linebacker, who finished third on the Buckeyes in catches last season. Stover hauled in three passes for a season-high, 83 yards against Toledo. The following game he caught four balls for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Wisconsin. The former three-star prospect posted a season-high, six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in the win at Penn State. Not to mention Stover generated two receiving scores, including a 12-yard touchdown against Indiana. The six-foot-four, 255-pounder is physical, sure-handed, and clutch on key third downs. Stover also capped off his stellar season with third-team, All-Big Ten honors.

2. Corey Dyches, Maryland: The former three-star prospect started four games last season, but still finished second on the Terrapins in receiving yards. Dyches is a consistent safety net, and has caught a pass in 14-straight games. He generated a season-high, six receptions, including a five-yard touchdown in the victory over SMU. His 106 receiving yards, and two touchdown catches against Purdue were both season-highs. Dyches caught five balls against Rutgers. Not to mention he combined for six receptions, and 114 receiving yards in back-to-back games against Michigan and Michigan State. With All-Big Ten quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa still behind center, Dyches will continue to flourish.

1. Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota: The former three-star prospect led the team with 42 receptions last season. Spann-Ford ranked second on Minnesota in receiving yards and touchdown catches. He’s a mountain, standing six-foot-seven, but is very fluid for his size. Spann-Ford proved he was the ultimate safety net. He hauled in three passes for 64 yards and a touchdown against Western Illinois. Spann-Ford caught at least three or more balls in seven Big Ten games. The Minnesota native had five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown at Penn State. His seven catches for 95 yards in the win at Wisconsin were both season-highs. Spann-Ford was also a 2023 preseason Big Ten honoree.