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Tight End University

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I think most Husky fans breathed a sigh of release when Kavario Middleton hit the football field at Montlake this season. Middleton is the first all conference potential TE we have had on the roster in quite some time. You can tell he will end up being a high NFL draft choice in the future.

It is interesting that a school whose nickname was TE University during the Owens, James, and Lambright years could fall on almost a decade of hard times at the position.

In yesterday's article on LB we were able to trace the fall back to the latter days of Rick Neuheisel. Today at a readers request we are going to take a look at TE, and while the decline started with injuries to Ben Bandel and Joe Toledo under Neuheisel most of the blame is squarely on Willingham for only succesful recruiting two TE's in four years.

2001 Recruiting Year (Neuheisel)

When you go back to 2001 Washington was still Tight End University. Joe Collier, Kevin Ware, Jeremy Stevens, and Jon Westra were four guys that could start on almost any Husky squad since then, plus you had Joe Toledo waiting in the wings.

The problems started that recruiting year when Neuheisel picked up a couple of kids he should have passed on. Even Chuck Heater was surprised when Neuheisel offered his son Andy. Lasee stuck around a few years and dropped off the squad. Both Heater and Lasee bounced between DE and TE as tweeners often do.

  • Joe Toledo (Blue Chip)
  • GrahamLasee
  • Andy Heater

2002 Recruiting Year (Neuheisel)

Bandel was going to be pretty good until his career was cut short by injury. Jason Benn was a legacy recruit who never found the right place to play. He was another one of Neu's famous tweeners. UW inexplicably never offered Ferndale's Cody Boyd who went on to have a great career at WSU. The failure to recruit Boyd who was a four star recruit was a major mistake.

  • Ben Bandel (Blue Chip)
  • Jason Benn

2003 Recruiting Year (Neuheisel)

Lyon was a five star JC recruit who came in and gave some quality but unspectacular minutes during his career at UW. He was s solid backup while at UW that was needed because of injuries to Bandel, and Toledo. Tyler played on the defensive line and quit after one season.

  • Jon Lyon (JC)
  • Casey Tyler

2004 Recruiting Year (Gilbertson)

Ceasar never had the hands at TE and was moved to DE where he played on and off for four seasons. Gilbertson should never have played himearly.  He really wasn't ready to contribute till year four. Gottleib who is a senior this season walked on and was rewarded a scholarship soon after. It was about this time that TE was becoming a dead zone for failed LB's like Rob Lewis, and Dash Crutchley.

  • Ceasar Rayford
  • Michael Gottleib

2005 Recruiting season (Willingham)

Ed Dickson and Adam Grant were at the top of the list that year but the turmoil of a coaching change led them to Oregon, and Arizona respectively. The Huskies picked up a sleeper from SW Washington by the name of Tim Williams who quit in year two. Bellarmine's Jared Bronson was a walk on who left the program after failing to earn a scholarship. He is now in his senior season at Central Washington and is a possible NFL draft choice.

  • Tim Williams

2006 Recruiting Year (Willingham)

UW came up with nada and passed on Kevin Kooyman who went to WSU. The word on the street was Ty was waiting for Izbicki who was in the bag for next year.

2007 Recruiting Year (Willingham)

Some rating services had Izbicki rated as a high as #1 in the country but an injury his HS senior season stalled his development. Izbicki redshirted his first year and had a decent Spring game. An underaged drinking violation set him back this fall and he is currently running 3-4 on the depth chart. On a side note Vancouver BC's Trey Henderson wanted to be a Husky desperately but was never recruited and ended up at USC. It always puzzled me why Ty passed on him with such an obvious need at the position. Ty's loss is Pete Carroll's gain.

  • Chris Izbicki (Blue Chip)

2008 Recruiting Year (Willingham)

UW picked up another All American TE in Kavario Middleton. While he needs a year to get stronger and handle blocking assignments he is already the best receiving threat at the position since the days of Stevens and Ware.

  • Kavario Middleton (Blue Chip)

Current state of the program at Tight End

Middleton and Izbicki will be the main tandem over the next three years but other than walk on Romeo Savant the position is dry which means UW desperately needs to bring in two TE's in the 2009 class. You need a pipeline of five quality TE's in constant development and Ty has never had that despite being on the job four years.