A position by position look at your 2014 Spartans in no particular order. Previously: Special Teams.
Last season, Josiah Price, Andrew Gleichert, and Jamal Lyles -- the three players that made up the main corps of MSU's tight end unit -- were used sparingly in the passing game as they caught 28 passes combined last season, 11.3% of all balls caught by MSU offensive players last season. However, many of those receptions came at critical times; Price was second on the Spartans in touchdown receptions with 4 TD catches, including the score that put MSU up for good in the Big Ten title game.
The good news is that those same three tight ends are back from last season, and there's really no bad news. Gleichert will be playing out his last year of eligibility, but Lyles and Price both have three years left to play including this one. At the start of fall camp they were all listed as co-starters. However, if one or two of them should be injured or move around (Gleichert is the backup fullback), there will be a couple of young Spartans waiting in the wings to replace them.
In the second part of our 2014 MSU football position preview, we take a look at the tight ends.
The Main Men
Josiah Price - Soph. - 6'4", 251 lbs.
While Price wasn't the full time starter at tight end for the Spartans last season, he still received six starts during the 2013 season and was the most statistically proficient of the three of them, catching 17 balls for 210 yards and four scores.
I very much think it's going to be a tight end by committee this season. Of the three starting tight ends, I believe Price to have the best hands (he's the only of the three who was offered a scholarship originally at the position), so you may see much more of him on obvious passing downs.
Also, I can't mention Price's TD against Ohio State last season and not show it:
Andrew Gleichert - Sr. - 6'5", 264 lbs.
Gleichert started his Spartan career as a walk-on, but in his third year he was awarded a scholarship. Often times coaches make a big deal of awarding scholarships to walk-ons with videos that make you feel things. Gleichert did not have quite the same experience:
"I kind of made a fool of myself," Gleichert said, laughing. "He was like, 'Every so often we like to grant a walk-on a scholarship, and this year is Andrew Gleichert.' I stood up, and I go in front of the team and start to make a speech. He (Dantonio) was like, 'You don't need to do that. You can like sit down and wave.'
"People still give me some crap for that."
Nevertheless, the elder statesman at the position looks to contribute again. He played in all but one game last year contributing solid blocking along with six receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Jamal Lyles - Soph. - 6'3", 251 lbs.
In Lyles's senior year of high school he played quarterback, receiver, tight end, running back, and linebacker. And that's not over a season, that was all in one game. Lyles was originally recruited to MSU as a linebacker, but a glut of players at that position along with opportunities at tight end led the coaches to move Lyles. It sounds like he's adapted well:
I started off at tight end, I was good at catching the ball, but now I'm focusing on blocking, and that helped me out big time,'' said Lyles, who caught five passes for 58 yards last season. "I feel like I'm an every-down tight end.
"We (tight ends) go against (defensive ends) Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, and I know if I can block those guys consistently — and they win too, sometimes — but if I can block them, I think I can become an every down tight end.''
If you can block Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, I think the referees give you three points based on that, let alone become an everyday tight end.
Waiting in the Wings
Paul Lang - Jr. - 6'5", 259 lbs.
There was a time where it looked like Lang might have to retire due to herniated discs in his back in 2011. He recovered though, and scored the only touchdown in MSU's 12-10 loss to Michigan two years ago. While Lang may have been passed on the depth chart, he still saw time in 13 games last season, making him to good to have on special teams.
Dylan Chmura - R-Fr. - 6'4", 245 lbs.
If Chmura sees significant time this season, get ready for "Dylan Chmura is former NFL tight end Mark Chmura's son" to become the new "Drew Neitzel is ambidextrous". Chmura was rated at a top 15 recruit in the state of Wisconsin when he committed to the Spartans in the 2013 class.
Matt Sokol - Fr. - 6-5, 244 lbs.
Sokol graduated high school early and joined the Spartans for spring practice. A three-star tight end who played both quarterback and linebacker in high school, Sokol will most likely be redshirted this season.