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Best Returning Big 12 Tight Ends

Big 12 tight ends

When college football fans think of the Big 12, they think of offense. The two positions most talked about in the conference are the quarterbacks and receivers, but one spot on offense is overlooked. That is the tight end position. Only one player was drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft with Oklahoma’s Brayden Willis going to the San Francisco 49ers. Here at Last Word, we are looking at the best-returning players by position for each conference. We’re spending this week on the Big 12 conference. Today we look at the Big 12 tight ends.

Best Returning Big 12 Tight Ends

#5: DeShawn Hanika, Iowa State

DeShawn Hanika did not have a ton of catches in 2022, but he made the most of the ones he did make. He had 17 catches on the season for 244 yards and four touchdowns. While limited numbers, that is a touchdown every 4.3 catches. The Cyclones were not good last season going 4-8 overall and 1-8 in Big 12 play. The team closed out the season with a 62-14 loss to TCU, but Hanika had perhaps his best statistical game of the season. He caught three passes for 49 yards and one touchdown. He had a long of 24 yards and averaged 16.3 yards per catch in the game. Another key statistic is Hanika only played in eight games. Going by his averages he would have had 26 catches for 366 yards and six touchdowns if he had been in all 12 games. He will be a key to a turnaround in 2023.

#4: Jared Wiley, TCU

Prior to the Horned Frogs’ blowout defeat in the National Championship Game, a lot of things went right for the 2022 team. 2023 will bring plenty of change. On offense, they are replacing quarterback Max Duggan and offensive coordinator Garrett Riley. With Duggan off to the next level and Riley to Clemson, they turn to the familiar Chandler Morris at quarterback. He was the starter early last season before giving way to Duggan due to injury. The new play-caller will be Kendal Briles who is plenty familiar with the Big 12. Both will have one of the more reliable tight ends in the conference with Jared Wiley returning. Last season he caught 24 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns. He was clutch for TCU in their comeback effort against Oklahoma State by catching a 10-yard touchdown late to tie the game at 30. His best game was the regular season win over Kansas State with five catches for 74 yards and one touchdown.

#3: Ben Sinnott, Kansas State

Ben Sinnott was an All-Big 12 performer in 2022 for the conference champions. He started in all 14 games for the Wildcats and caught 31 passes for 447 yards and four touchdowns. He led all tight ends in the conference with a 14.4 yards per catch average. Sinnott got the scoring going for Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game in the Wildcats’ upset victory over TCU. He has shown great development in his career that started as a walk-on and as a fullback. In 2021, he had three carries for 12 yards and a touchdown before changing positions. His best game of 2022 came against Baylor in a 31-3 win on the 12th of November. He had seven catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

#2: Mason Fairchild, Kansas

The Kansas Jayhawks were not just a big surprise in the Big 12 in 2022, but they were a big surprise to the entire country early in the season. The Jayhawks got off to a 5-0 start before quarterback Jalon Daniels was lost for a few games due to a shoulder injury. Returning tight end Mason Fairchild was a big part of the offense. He was an All-Big 12 second-team performer on the season. Fairchild was third on the team with 443 yards and tied for first with six touchdowns. He was also third with 35 catches. His best game in 2022 was in a 52-42 defeat to Oklahoma where he had six catches for 106 yards and two scores. In the Liberty Bowl loss to Arkansas, he had six catches for 80 yards and found the endzone once.

#1: Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas

The best returning Big 12 tight end in 2023 is Ja’Tavion Sanders of the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns should have one of the better offenses in college football with 10 of 11 starters returning from the 2022 team. The one missing is superstar running back Bijan Robinson who is now an Atlanta Falcon. With returning receiver Xavier Worthy back, and Georgia transfer AD Mitchell on the outside it should open things up for Sanders. Last season, he caught 54 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns. Those receivers may open things up for him, and he opens things up for them as well. Sanders will be a good safety net for quarterback Quinn Ewers when everything else is covered up. The best game in 2022 for Sanders was against Oklahoma in a dominant 49-0 win. He had five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns on the day.


Big 12 tight ends

Photo courtesy: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports



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