The Michigan State offense obviously has a lot of question marks heading into this season, and one group that has been an unanswered question for the last several seasons is tight end. This is a position that went from being a perennial strength under Mark Dantonio, to one that has completely disappeared. If the MSU offense is to take the necessary step forward, the tight ends are going to need to be a productive part of it.
Last season MSU tight ends totaled 22 catches for 259 yards and two touchdowns. That was the fewest receptions and yards by MSU tight ends since 2006, also known as John L. Smith’s last season. The Spartans return only one tight end that caught a pass last season, so if there was ever a time for the next Josiah Price/Dion Simms/Brian Linthicum/Kellen Davis to step up, it is now.
Matt Dotson, Junior
We start with that lone returning letter-man from last season in Dotson. The junior out of Kenwood, OH led all Spartan tight ends with 14 catches for 159 yards and one touchdown. Basically, Dotson is the guy headed into this year, but that is sort of by default.
At 6-5 and 252 pounds, Dotson is a classic big tight end target, and one that should be a valuable weapon in the red zone. But last year saw a lot of inconsistency from Dotson, who, along with his fellow TE Matt Sokol, had some brutal drops at inopportune times.
This year offers a fresh start for Dotson, and a chance to take over and become the player that came in ranked 168th overall by Rivals coming out of high school. The MSU offense has always done best when a tight end is making plays and can be a viable red zone target. Dotson has the ability to do both, he just needs to put it all together. As I said, there is no better time than now for that to happen.
Noah Davis, Junior
Davis is the only other tight end on the roster to have caught a pass for Michigan State. Unfortunately for Davis, it was two years ago. The 6-4, 248 pound Cincinnati native missed all of last season with a knee injury.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017 Davis played in 11 games, starting four of them, and had three catches for 22 yards.
Davis was also a highly thought of recruit coming out of high school, ranking in the top 20 tight ends nationally by both Rivals and ESPN.
The health of Davis is obviously a concern and it is yet to be seen how he will do coming back from the knee surgery that kept him out of action last year.
Trenton Gillison, RS Freshman
If there was a new face most likely to make an impact at tight end, it is Gillison. A fellow Ohio native like the two TE’s we already talked about, Gillison checks in at 6-4, 249 pounds and comes with a big time pedigree. Rated no. 133 overall by Rivals coming out of high school and the top tight end prospect in the state of Ohio, Gillison could very well be MSU’s next big time tight end.
Gillison has drawn comparisons to former MSU tight end Dion Simms, as someone who comes in with both the physical size and good hands to make a nice big target for the quarterback either in the middle of the field, or in the red zone.
While catching and route running are important, you better be able to block as well, and that is an area where, if Gillison can get that down, he could be very good very soon for MSU.
Matt Seybert, Senior
Seybert is an interesting player. His journey has taken him from the University of Buffalo, to Michigan State, and from offense to defense, and back to offense again.
The Traverse City native originally went to Buffalo, redshirted, and then transferred to MSU in 2016, where he sat out that season per transfer rules. Then as a sophomore in 2017 he appeared in five games for MSU, but just 36 snaps on offense.
Then during the spring of 2018, Seybert moved to defensive end. He appeared in just three games last year, all on special teams.
This year, Seybert is once again back in the tight end room. How much he plays or what impact he has is up in the air, but I would expect him to see a lot of action on special teams if nothing else.
Other Tight Ends on Roster:
· Parks Gissinger, RS Freshman: The California native came into MSU as a three-star defensive end recruit. Like Seybert, Gissinger has made the transition to the tight end room this year. Gissinger took a redshirt last season and sat out, so it looks like he is trying to find a spot to make his mark in East Lansing. At 6-2, 238 pounds he isn’t as big as some of the other TE’s on the roster, but with the uncertainty at the position, he could work his way into future plans if he performs well.
The tight end group is one that has under performed each of the last two seasons, and hasn’t been a factor since Josiah Price graduated. The shuffle in the offensive coaching staff has Mark Staten in charge of the tight end room this year, a job he held at MSU from 2007-2010. During that time he oversaw the development of Kellen Davis, Charlie Gantt, Brian Linthicum, and Garrett Celek.
Hopefully Staten can breathe some new life into this group and they can pick up the production level back to where MSU fans are used to seeing it. Given the offensive struggles in the red zone over the last two years, a reliable tight end target could be a huge boost.