Top Returning SEC Tight Ends For 2017

    The top returning SEC tight ends for 2017 all come from the SEC East, shifting the power balance now that O.J. Howard and Evan Engram have moved on.

    March 8, 2017

    The top returning SEC tight ends for 2017 all come from the SEC East, shifting the power balance now that O.J. Howard and Evan Engram have moved on.


    The SEC lost some very good tight ends to graduation, namely Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Ole Miss’ Evan Engram, who ranked second nationally last year at the position with 65 receptions for 926 yards and eight touchdowns. But this conference values its tight ends, and like the Big Ten it makes the position a priority on Signing Day. So, while there might not be an Engram impersonator in 2017, tight ends such as C.J. Conrad, DeAndre Goolsby, Hayden Hurst and Isaac Nauta are set to serve integral roles in their respective passing games.

    Top Returning SEC Tight Ends

    3. DeAndre Goolsby, Florida

    Step-by-step, Goolsby is getting closer to fulfilling his potential as a playmaker in the Gator passing game. He possesses the requisite speed and agility to school opposing linebackers in the open field, but there’s still room for growth and general maturity over the second half of his career in Gainesville. As a 10-game starter in 2016, Goolsby caught 38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns, numbers he’s capable of surpassing this fall.

    2. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

    Hurst has been a very pleasant surprise for the Gamecocks since changing sports two years ago. The former baseball star, who spent three years in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system, elected to walk on at South Carolina in 2015. And after lettering as a freshman, he took off last year with 48 receptions for 616 yards and a touchdown. Hurst is 6-5 and 253 pounds, but he gets off the line and moves down the field like a much smaller player.

    1. Isaac Nauta, Georgia

    The top-rated tight end from the 2016 recruiting class is off and running in his career as a Bulldog. The 6-4, 246-pound Nauta is coming off a Freshman All-American debut in which he caught 29 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Both he and QB Jacob Eason endured baptisms by fire as first-year players, but they’ll benefit from that experience in 2017 and beyond. And Nauta should be a preferred target on a team very light on proven receivers.

    MORE: Best Returning Tight Ends In College Football For 2017

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