Best Players At An Evolving Position
As college football puts more emphasis on the passing game the tight end position is evolving as well. Gone are the days of being simply a blocker for the strong rushing game. Now tight ends are becoming an integral part of the offense. This recent NFL Draft saw two SEC tight ends selected. Several more could be chosen in 2023. Much like Kasey Kasem, we won’t stop until we reach the top. Let’s take a look at the who heads the list with the top returning SEC tight ends.
Fifth Best Returning Tight End
John Samuel Shenker– Auburn- Bryan Harsin’s club got a huge bonus when Shenker announced he’s returning for another year. A season ago he set a school record for tight ends with 33 receptions and 413 receiving yards. That included a career-high of 102 yards in the 24-19 win over LSU. It was the first time an Auburn tight end topped the century mark since Andy Fuller did it in 1994. Whoever ends up as the Tigers’ quarterback they’ll be glad Shenker’s out there for security.
Fourth Best Returning Tight End
Keaton Upshaw– Kentucky- Going back to 2020 Upshaw hauled in 16 receptions for 194 yards and three touchdowns. That placed him second in yards and first in touchdowns. He seemed primed for a big season in then-offensive coordinator Liam Coen’s offense. However, a torn pectoral muscle forced him to miss all of 2021. After seeing what players like George Kittle have done in new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s offense the possibilities are endless. The Lima, Ohio native and his 6-6 frame should get plenty of looks in the red zone from potential first round pick Will Levis.
Continuing on with the top returning SEC tight ends let’s move on to number three on the list.
Third Best Returning Tight End
Jaheim Bell– South Carolina– Despite an attack that was “offensively challenged” in 2021 the junior to be put up some great numbers. His 30 receptions and 497 yards ranked him second on the team in both categories. In addition, he led the team with nearly 17 yards a catch and added five touchdowns. With Spencer Rattler under center look for his numbers to increase this season.
Second Best Returning Tight End
Cameron Latu– Alabama- During the course of the season Latu became one of Bryce Young‘s favorite targets. In 14 games as a junior, he hauled in 26 passes for 410 yards and eight touchdowns. In addition, he finished second on the team in scores and third in yards. He saved his best game for last with five receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown in the national championship game. Another season working with Young will only enhance his stats.
Thanks for sticking with us so far as we count down the top returning SEC tight ends. We’ve reached the top spot and number one on our list shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Number One Returning Tight End
Brock Bowers– Georgia- As a true freshman in 2021 Bowers quickly burst onto the scene. Playing in 14 of 15 games for the national champions he hauled in 56 passes for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns. That placed him first among all tight ends in the nation and sixth overall. In addition, he ran for 56 more yards and another touchdown.
Brock Bowers had 15 red zone targets without a drop last season.
Most among P5 TEs 🥇 pic.twitter.com/Z0sXfmilQz
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 25, 2022
He hauled in four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in the national title game. The amazing thing is played the last half of the season with a torn labrum. He had surgery in the off-season missing spring practice. However, he should be ready to go for the fall. Bowers tops our list of top returning SEC tight ends.
Just Missed The List
Before we go let’s make mention of three other players who are just outside our top returning SEC tight ends. They include Austin Stogner, who caught 40 passes in two years at Oklahoma but transferred to reunite with Rattler. Due in part to the incoming transfers expectations are high in Shane Beamer’s second year in Columbia.
The other two, Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington, both play for Georgia. Gilbert transferred to Athens after a standout freshman year at LSU. However, he sat out 2021 due to personal reasons. Gilbert capped a big return to football with two touchdowns in the Spring game. Washington has 17 catches in two years averaging a whopping 19 yards per catch. As a result, Kirby Smart’s club has an embarrassment of riches at the position.
Thanks for checking out the top returning SEC tight ends here at Last Word On College Football. Is there someone else who should be on the list? Let us know in the comment section or chime in on Twitter.