LARAMIE — Wyoming is once again set to have plenty of variety at tight end. The question is how will all of them be used in the Cowboys’ new offense?
First-year offensive coordinator Tim Polasek will begin figuring that out this spring.
Tight ends aren’t going anywhere in Polasek’s offense, which will often have a tight end or two on the field in an offense that schematically will look a lot like the pro-style system the Cowboys ran under Brent Vigen. And Polasek has a wealth of options to choose from at the position.
UW hasn’t lost any tight ends off last season’s roster. Veterans Nate Weinman and Jackson Marcotte are back as is sophomore Treyton Welch, who spent last season atop the depth chart. Colin O’Brien, who played in one game last season after transferring from junior college, also has the size (6-foot-6, 238 pounds) and skill set to be a bigger factor going forward.
Bulk is a theme with this group with O’Brien, Weinman (6-7) and Marcotte (6-7) all being at least 6-6 and weighing at least 238 pounds, but the Cowboys also complement their skill sets with more hybrid players at the position like Welch and Sheridan native Parker Christensen, who can line up in the slot or even at fullback.
Most if not all of them have proven their worth as blockers in the run game, but the Cowboys’ coaching staff wants to get the group involved more consistently in the passing game, an area that’s tailed off a bit in recent years.
“We rely on them so much with the blocking phase of it,” said receivers coach Mike Grant, who was promoted to pass-game coordinator this offseason. “We’re getting guys in matchups or their personnel that (defenses) don’t maybe want to try to cover. Our tight ends are very athletic and can get involved in the passing game.”
The frequency with which UW threw ball had something to do it — the Cowboys attempted the 14th-fewest passes in the FBS last season (134) — but the tight ends combined for just 16% of the Cowboys’ receptions last fall. Welch was the leader among the group with just five catches, though his 19.5 yards per reception is a good indication of his ability to stretch defenses through the air.
Former tight end Jacob Hollister combined for 870 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in his final two seasons at UW, but the pass-catching production at the position has consistently dipped since. Tyree Mayfield caught 341 yards worth of passes in 2018 before Josh Harshman was the Cowboys’ leading receiver at the position in 2019 with just 264 yards.
Of course, Hollister had Josh Allen throwing to him, a duo that has since reunited in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. Between injuries and youth, UW’s quarterback situation hasn’t been nearly as stable in the three years since.
But UW coach Craig Bohl believes the Cowboys have the kind of personnel at tight end that can be more than safety valves for quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams next season. Freshman Nick Miles and 2021 signee John Michael Gyllenborg, who will join the tight end room this summer, will only add to the depth there.
“Beyond the high-percentage passes, I think we have some tight ends that can stretch the field vertically, get out in space and work maybe man to man against a safety or do some things against certainly some zone and linebackers,” Bohl said. “These are things both (offensive line coach) Derek (Frazier) and Tim are going to bring that we need to look at.”
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter