April 23, 2024

College football’s 15 best tight ends of 2024

College football's 15 best tight ends of 2024

Michigan tight end Colston Loveland lines up before a play in the third quarter of the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa Saturday December 2, 2023 at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

They are the unsung heroes when it comes to moving the chains on offense.

Tight ends are physical, have several responsibilities, plus they have to effectively block on running and passing plays. It’s not easy being a safety net, but these 15 individuals made it look easy last season.

Now they’re trying to pick up where they left off with spring ball in the air, and generate more buzz behind their names as we slowly approach the 2024 season.

15. Mason Taylor, LSU: The Florida native was a big safety net for Heisman winner Jayden Daniels last season, and recorded 36 catches. Taylor is very athletic for a guy that stands six-foot-six, and weighs 248 pounds, plus he uses his size to his advantage. He caught four passes for 39 yards in the opener against Florida State. Taylor recorded five receptions for 61 yards at Ole Miss. The former four-star prospect hauled in a three-yard touchdown pass in the victory at Missouri. Taylor left a lasting impression in the bowl win over Wisconsin, after he caught seven passes for 88 yards, which were both season-highs. His chemistry with quarterback Garrett Nussmeier looked very promising too.

14. Luke Lachey, Iowa: The 22-year old was limited to just three games in 2023 because of a season-ending leg injury. Lachey still shined through the first two contests, and represented for Tight End U. He hauled in seven passes for 73 yards in the opening victory over Utah State, which were both team-highs. The following week Lachey led Iowa with 58 receiving yards on three catches in the win at Iowa State. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken leg in the first quarter against Western Michigan. With Erick All off to the NFL, Lachey has an opportunity to upgrade the tight end room, and boost the Hawkeyes’ aerial attack. The Ohio native has to return fully healthy though, and have solid quarterback play.

13. Benjamin Yurosek, Georgia: The Californian only played in six games at Stanford last season, due to a shoulder injury. However, Yurosek showed what he was capable of early-on in 2023. He got off to a hot start, with nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown at Hawaii, which were all season-highs. The following week Yurosek led Stanford in catches and receiving yards at USC. Not to mention he generated two catches for 35 yards against Arizona. Now Yurosek will be looking to fill the shoes of two-time, John Mackey Award winner Brock Bowers at Georgia this fall. The Bulldogs have had a lot of success with their tight ends under Kirby Smart, which should bode well for Yurosek.

12. Mitchell Evans, Notre Dame: The former three-star prospect didn’t make the Golden Domers forget about Michael Mayer, but delivered a promising campaign in 2023. Evans led the Fighting Irish in receptions, and finished second on the team in receiving yards. He caught six balls for 61 yards against Tennessee State. The six-foot-five, 260-pounder recorded a season-high, seven receptions for 75 yards against Ohio State. The following week Evans generated six catches for a season-high, 134 yards in the victory at Duke. The next game at Louisville he hauled in four passes, including a six-yard touchdown reception. Unfortunately, Evans missed the last four games due to a torn ACL.

11. Amari Niblack, Texas: The Florida native finished third on Alabama in receptions and receiving yards last season. Niblack also tied for first on the team in touchdown catches, and helped the Crimson Tide win a SEC Title. He even averaged 16 yards per catch. Niblack caught two passes, including a 29-yard touchdown in the opener against Middle Tennessee. The following week Niblack caught two balls, including a 39-yard touchdown against Texas. The former four-star prospect had a season-high, 61 receiving yards at Mississippi State. Niblack recorded a receiving score in wins over Arkansas and Kentucky. Now he’ll look to fill the production of All-Big 12 performer Ja’Tavion Sanders.

10. RJ Maryland, SMU: The former four-star prospect tied for first on the Mustangs in touchdown catches in 2023. Maryland capped off his amazing campaign with first-team, All-AAC honors. He caught five passes for 58 yards and a score in the opener against Louisiana Tech. Maryland hauled in three passes, including a 23-yard touchdown against Charlotte. The next game he caught three more balls, including a 43-yard touchdown at East Carolina. The following week Maryland had three additional catches, including a two-yard touchdown at Temple. Maryland found the end zone with a 62-yard touchdown reception against Tulsa. His last touchdown catch was a 24-yarder against North Texas.

9. Cade Prieskorn, Ole Miss: The former Memphis Tiger had a breakout campaign in the Almighty SEC last season. Prieskorn tied for second on the Rebels in touchdown receptions, and capped off his campaign with second-team, All-SEC honors. He caught three balls for 41 yards in the victory over LSU. Prieskorn recorded six catches, including a two-yard touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe. The Michigan native hauled in four passes, including a 26-yard touchdown at Mississippi State. Prieskorn left a lasting impression, with 10 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl win over Penn State, which were all season-highs. He’s the headliner of a very talented Rebel tight end room this fall.

8. Jack Velling, Michigan State: The Seattle native led Oregon State in touchdown catches last year. Velling also capped off his stellar season with second-team, All-Pac-12 honors. He recorded three receptions, including a 14-yard touchdown in the opener at San Jose State. The former three-star prospect caught two balls, including a five-yard touchdown at Washington State. Velling hauled in four passes, including a jaw-dropping, three touchdowns in the victory at California, which were season-highs. The next game he recorded a season-high, 83 receiving yards, and two scores in the win over UCLA. Not to mention Velling caught five balls, including a 22-yard touchdown at Arizona.

7. Jake Briningstool, Clemson: The 21-year old led the Tigers in touchdown receptions, and capped off his campaign with third-team, All-ACC honors last season. Briningstool caught three balls, including a seven-yard touchdown against Florida-Atlantic. He had 126 receiving yards and two touchdown catches at Miami, which were both season-highs. The Tennessee native caught eight balls for 93 yards at NC State. Briningstool hauled in a five yard touchdown pass against Georgia Tech. The former four-star prospect had three catches, including a three-yard touchdown against North Carolina. His nine receptions for 91 yard in bowl win over Kentucky were a season-high.

6. Terrance Ferguson, Oregon: Last season he tied for third on the Ducks in touchdown catches, and capped off his campaign with first-team, All-Pac-12 honors. Ferguson caught four passes, including a 10-yard touchdown at Stanford. He hauled in three passes, including a four-yard touchdown against California. Ferguson caught a 15-yard touchdown pass against USC. His two touchdown receptions against Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game were a season-high. Ferguson left a lasting impression with a two-yard receiving score in the Fiesta Bowl victory over Liberty. Now Ferguson will be catching balls from Dillon Gabriel, who recorded 30 touchdown tosses in 2023.

5. Tyler Warren, Penn State: The Virginia native tied for first on the Nittany Lions in touchdown receptions, and earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors last season. Warren had a season-high, six catches, including a two-yard touchdown against Delaware. The following week he hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass at Illinois. The next game Warren recorded a season-high, two touchdown catches in the shutout victory over Iowa. He generated a seven-yard receiving score against Massachusetts. Warren caught a caught a touchdown in victories over Maryland and Michigan State. His 127 receiving yards on five catches in the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss, were a season-high too.

4. Harold Fannin, Bowling Green State: Although he had no stars behind his name as a high school prospect, the Falcon made huge strides last season. Fannin led the team in receiving yards and touchdown catches. He hauled in seven passes for a season-high, 109 yards and a touchdown against Eastern Illinois. The Ohio native caught two balls, including a 36-yard touchdown against Akron. The next game Fannin had five catches for 92 yards and a touchdown against Ball State. The following week Fannin caught a 47-yard touchdown at Kent State. His two touchdown receptions in the win over Western Michigan were a season-high. Fannin earned first-team, All-MAC honor for his heroics.

3. Drake Dabney, TCU: The former three-star prospect led Baylor in touchdown receptions in 2023. Dabney even averaged 16.7 yards per catch. He caught six balls for 101 yards and a season-high, two touchdowns in the opener against Texas State. Dabney hauled in a three-yard touchdown pass against LIU. The six-foot-five, 248-pounder caught a 38-yard touchdown against Houston. Dabney recorded four receptions for a season-high, 105 yards and a receiving score at Kansas State. The next game at TCU Dabney tallied four additional catches for 77 yards. He’s attempting to make an immediate impact with the Horned Frogs this fall, by filling the shoes of All-Big 12 performer Jared Wiley.

2. Bryson Nesbit, North Carolina: The former four-star prospect finished second on the Tar Heels in touchdown catches, and earned first-team, All-ACC honors last year. Nesbit caught four balls, including a 19-yard touchdown against Minnesota. He recorded five receptions, including a 23-yard receiving score against Syracuse. The Charlotte native had three catches for a season-high, 93 yards and a touchdown against Virginia. The following week Nesbit hauled in five passes, including a 14-yard touchdown at Georgia Tech. The six-foot-five, 235-pounder posted seven receptions, including a 15-yard touchdown in the win over Duke. Nesbit recorded 48 receiving yards against NC State.

1. Colston Loveland, Michigan: The Idaho native ranked second on the National Champs in receiving yards and touchdown catches last season. Loveland even capped off his amazing campaign with first-team, All-Big Ten honors for his heroics. He caught five balls for 75 yards against Rutgers. Loveland hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass at Minnesota. The former four-star prospect caught three balls, including a 54-yard touchdown against Indiana. The next game he had a season-high, two touchdown catches, including a pair of 22-yarders in the shutout victory at Michigan State. Loveland posted 88 receiving yards against Ohio State, and 64 in the National Title Game win over Washington.

Honorable Mention

Corey Dyches, Transfer Portal: He caught 49 balls for 479 yards at Maryland last season. Dyches maneuvers around defenses like a fluid wideout. The Maryland native caught six passes for a season-high, 108 yards and a touchdown against Towson. Dyches also scored against Rutgers, and earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors.

Dae’Quan Wright, Ole Miss: The Georgia native ranked second in receptions, and third in receiving yards at Virginia Tech in 2023. Wright hauled in four passes for 77 yards against Purdue. He had a 30-yard catch in the win over Pittsburgh. Now he’ll make the tight end a team strength at Ole Miss, by playing alongside Cade Prieskorn.

Oronde Gadsden, Syracuse: The 20-year old was an All-ACC performer in 2022, but was limited to two games in last season because of a foot injury he suffered against Western Michigan. Gadsden caught six passes, including a 14-yard touchdown in the opening victory over Colgate. If Gadsden can bounce back, he’ll be a big target for Kyle McCord.

Brant Kuithe, Utah: The Texas native is a three-time, All-Pac-12 performer. Kuithe missed all of last season while he recovered from a torn right ACL and meniscus. The 24-year old has 26 starts under his belt, as well as 148 career catches for 1,882 yards. If Kuithe can return intact, he’ll be one of the best weapons in the expanded Big 12 this fall.