- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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The 2011 class features a good group of tight ends. A solid six at the position are found in the initial ESPNU 150 rankings, and there is good talent in the four- and three-star range as well. There are, naturally, more players ready to contribute as targets in the passing game, but the class does boast a good group of well-rounded players, especially among those ranked in the ESPNU 150.
Jay Rome (Valdosta, Ga./Valdosta)
Ht.: 6-5 | Wt.: 230 pounds | Stars: 4 | TE rank: 1 | ESPNU 150 rank: 20
The top tight end in this class reminds us a lot of the top tight end in 2010 class, USC signee Xavier Grimble. Rome has a nice mixture of size, ability and tools to contribute as a blocker and receiver. He presents a big target with soft hands in the passing game. While he needs some polish, he could be a productive, tough blocker.
Nick O'Leary (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer)
Ht.: 6-4 | Wt.: 230 pounds | Stars: 4 | TE rank: 2 | ESPNU 150 rank: 22
There seems to be a lot of things O'Leary can do well. He is a physical kid who seems to thrive on contact. He needs to keep working on his technique to become a good in-line blocker. He also has good hands and can make tough grabs. O'Leary seems to successfully meld a blue-collar style of play with excellent athleticism.
Malcolm Faciane (Picayune, Miss./Picayune Memorial)
Ht.: 6-5 | Wt.: 260 pounds | Stars: 4 | TE rank: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: 76
One of the top tight ends in this class may be one of the better kept secrets. Faciane has good size and the ability to get out of his stance quickly. He can be productive in the passing game and, with some development, could be a real asset as an in-line blocker. He seems like a perfect fit and a steal for Alabama.
TEs to watch
• The No. 6-rated tight end in the ESPNU 150 might be viewed by some as a defensive prospect, but we really like what Brandon Fulse (Fort Meade, Fla./Fort Meade) brings to the table on offense. The 6-4, 250-pounder can be a load at the tight end position. He is a strong blocker who can get into defenders and drive them off the ball. He also runs well for his size, makes some nice grabs and grinds out yards after the catch.
• Eric Ebron (Greensboro, N.C./Smith) is a good-sized target (6-4, 225 pounds) with the frame to develop. The North Carolina commit can snatch the ball out of the air and is capable of being a tough matchup because he will go up and get the ball. He should be a pretty popular and busy guy in the red zone for the Tar Heels.
• Wallace Gonzalez (La Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat) holds no offers, but missed time and a second sport could be keeping him under the radar. He also transferred schools, which forced him to miss all but one game as a junior. On top of being a talented tight end, Gonzalez is a coveted baseball prospect and his prowess and time on the diamond could slow his development as a tight end and make recruiters a little cautious. Past that, Gonzalez is a promising tight end prospect because he has good size (6-5, 221 pounds), good ball skills and can be a productive part of a passing attack. He is someone to keep an eye on and could end up being a nice steal for a school that makes a move, especially if he turns his attention to the gridiron.
Jack Tabb (Red Bank, N.J./Catholic) is a four-star tight end prospect who may end up being a better fit on defense. He runs well, and, regardless of which side of the ball he plays on, he is a pretty good football player and recruit. ... Not shocking, but the sons of two offensive line coaches are two of the best blocking tight ends in this class. Louie Addazio (Gainesville, Fla./Buchholz), whose father coaches at Florida, and Robert Kugler (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny), whose father coaches for the Pittsburgh Steelers, both quickly get into defenders and combine good technique with tenacious styles to be productive blockers. ... Bennie Browne (Cincinnati/Walnut Hills) is a prospect short on experience, but he has good size, tools and presents nice upside. ... It is hard to imagine monster tight end prospect Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor, Wash./Gig Harbor) not eventually playing offensive tackle, but the ESPNU 150 prospect certainly shows enough to deserve a shot to prove he can be a big college tight end. ... Massachusetts is not a hot bed for recruiting, but the state has been turning out some good tight end talent recently. The newest prospect at that position is Brian Miller (Andover, Mass./Andover). He needs to develop as a blocker, but he has good hands and can be a target in the passing game. ... Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa./Oil City) gives Notre Dame a player who can be a nice target in the passing game. He has good height and hands, and he will consistently go up and compete for the ball.
Craig Haubert is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience.