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Michigan State Football 2021 Positional Preview: Tight Ends

With a few returning players and some key additions, the tight end position could turn the corner in 2021

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Since Josiah Price’s departure from the program, Michigan State has struggled to find much consistency at the tight end position. Price is the Spartans’ all-time leader in career touchdown receptions for a tight end and will be remembered as one of the best in program history.

Compare his production to this past year’s stable of tight ends and the glaring need for someone to step up is evident. In 2020, tight ends combined for just 22 catches, 234 yards and zero touchdowns.

Matt Dotson led the way in receptions and yards with nine catches for 107 yards, while playing just four games. It was originally expected that Dotson would return for another season with the Spartans, thanks to an extra year of eligibility granted to 2020 fall athletes due to COVID-19. He, however, does not appear on the current MSU spring roster and it appears his college career is likely over.

As the Spartans head into 2021, there are a few options the team can look to at the tight end position. With returning players such as Tyler Hunt and Trenton Gillison, along with incoming freshman Kameron Allen and transfer Maliq Carr potentially getting some reps at tight end, Michigan State anticipates seeing some improvement at the position.

Let’s take a closer look at the tight ends on the roster:

Trenton Gillison, redshirt junior

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A highly-touted prospect out of Ohio in the 2018 class, Gillison has taken some time to come into his own as a Spartan, but 2021 could prove to be a pivotal season for the redshirt junior.

He finished the 2020 campaign with five catches for 49 yards in the first four games of the season, before missing the final three games due to injury. Perhaps Gillison’s best performance came back in his redshirt freshman year in 2019, where he caught four passes for 88 yards in Michigan State’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl win over Wake Forest.

Throughout his first two season, Gillison has shown big play ability, with a 64-yard catch in his redshirt freshman year being the longest play of the 2019 season for MSU, and three of his five catches last season going for first downs.

Heading into the 2021 campaign, it appears as though Gillison could be the early favorite for the starting role. He is one of the bigger tight ends on the roster, boasting a 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, which gives him the ability to block on the line and head down the field for big plays in the receiving game.

Tyler Hunt, redshirt senior

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One of the more shocking position changes last season came from Hunt, who made the transition from punter to tight end in the 2020 season.

Though kickers and punters typically get a bad rap when it comes to physicality, Hunt’s move to tight end didn’t look all that bad. Among MSU tight ends, he is the leading returner in receptions and yards. In the 2020 season, he brought in eight balls for 78 yards and also had a rushing touchdown against Iowa.

He played in five games and showed some athleticism with the ball in his hands. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, so blocking defensive ends and tackles could likely still be an issue for him. However, his value is more suited in the passing game as he boasts solid hands and an ability to make plays after the catch.

Kameron Allen, freshman

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The player garnering the most hype coming out of spring practice in the tight ends group is undoubtedly Allen, who was even dubbed as the “leader of the tight end room” by the staff.

He will need to fill out his frame, which is currently listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, but he arrives in East Lansing with a reputation as a playmaker who could provide the Spartans with some mismatches down the field.

Earlier this year, 247Sports listed Allen as one the top 100 true freshman who will impact the 2021 college football season. With limited returning production, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Allen provide MSU with a spark at the position. It is also possible the coaching staff wants to redshirt him this season, and he only plays in four games. But Allen is likely to force his way onto the field early.

According to 247Sports, Allen was the No. 67 overall tight end prospect in the 2021 class and the No. 1,273 player nationally. Should he continue trending toward the top of the depth chart, he could outplay that ranking very early in his career.

Maliq Carr, redshirt freshman

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One of the more intriguing options at tight end is Carr, who transferred to Michigan State from Purdue, and is originally from Oak Park, Michigan. Carr isn’t listed on the spring roster yet, but will likely be considered a redshirt freshman this year after only playing in three games for the Boilermakers last season. He could possibly have up to five years of eligibility still remaining because of the extra year of eligibility all 2020 fall athletes were granted due to COVID-19.

Carr was very highly-touted out of high school, being rated a four-star prospect, the No. 175 player overall and No. 4 tight end in the 2020 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.

It has been speculated that Mel Tucker would like to use Carr in more of a hybrid wide receiver role, as opposed to a traditional tight end. What this means is Carr could be used more like former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who recently went No. 4 in the NFL Draft. Blocking responsibilities could take some time to develop for Carr, if he is asked to play on the line of scrimmage.

Carr, at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, is a freak athlete who also plans to suit up for Tom Izzo on the basketball court this season. His athleticism could be a nightmare for opponents, as he will be able to outrun linebackers and go up over safeties for the ball.

A little bump in the road for Carr was the fact that he did have leg surgery this offseason, according to his Instagram Stories earlier this summer. His ability to get back on the field at full strength could be key for the MSU offense this season.

Adam Berghorst, junior

Berghorst has been a name that’s been thrown around among the middle of the depth chart throughout the spring, and a guy who could earn a role this season.

He played 36 snaps at tight end last year, and is a very big body, being listed at 6-foot-7, 260 pounds. Berghorst is also a pitcher on the Spartans’ baseball team, and originally came to MSU as a defensive end.

Berghorst saw one target last season and, could play an expanded role in helping the offensive line create some holes for the strong stable of running backs the Spartans have built.

Others on the roster:

  • Parks Gissinger, redshirt junior, Chaminade College Prep (California)
  • Evan Morris, redshirt sophomore, Ovid-Elsie High School (Michigan)
  • Jackson Morse, redshirt sophomore, East Lansing High School (Michigan)
  • Powers Warren, redshirt junior, Minnetonka High School (Minnesota)