Recruiting class of 2016 position analysis: Tight end
The race to National Signing Day has begun. Sports Illustrated and Scout.com have partnered to provide complete coverage of college football recruiting. SI has been rolling out breakdowns of the top-ranked players at each position. Today, we’re looking at tight ends. We already have broken down quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen and defensive ends. Follow along daily with conference-by-conference recruiting shows featuring analysis, breaking news, prospect breakdowns and much more, all leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
1. Isaac Nauta
High school: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Height/weight: 6’4”/237 lbs
National rank: 23
Scout.com scouting report: “Nauta is more of an old-school tight end. A tight end who can stay on the field all three downs. Blocking is something he does well. He can look like an extended offensive lineman at times. Very strong and could drive blocking. Has very good hands. Big tight end, but really soft hands that receives the ball well. Can be a real weapon inside the red zone and will be a go-to guy on third downs. Very dependable and has physical and finesse game.”
The latest: Nauta, a one-time Florida State verbal who decommitted from the Seminoles in July, is expected to commit at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 in San Antonio, Texas. His top five schools are Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State, with the Bulldogs the current perceived favorite for the Buford, Ga., native. He has taken official visits to all five schools, most recently Alabama on Nov. 7, and also took an unofficial to Miami on Dec. 11. He recently cut his list to Alabama, Georgia and Michigan.
2. Kaden Smith
High school: Marcus (Flower Mound, Tex.)
Height/weight: 6’5.5”/235 lbs
National rank: 41
Status: committed to Stanford
Scout.com scouting report: “Complete package. Can stretch the defense with his pass catching ability and size. He will line up as a traditional TE, H-back, and split out wide as a receiver. After a strong sophomore season where he showcased his abilities as a receiver it is an added bonus to get to see so much tape of him blocking up front on the line. Has soft hands, shows great concentration while tracking balls and can hold his own up front. Will make plays in traffic.”
The latest: Smith committed to Stanford in April over offers from Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M and other programs. In March, he broke the Guinness World Record for most one-handed catches in a minute previously held by New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. As a senior at Flower Mound, he caught 57 passes for 917 yards and nine touchdowns. Smith is the top-ranked player in Stanford’s 2016 class, which ranks No. 7 in the country.
High school: Laurel (Laurel, Miss.)
Height/weight: 6’4”/255 lbs
National rank: 46
Status: committed to Ole Miss
Scout.com scouting report: “Tough physical tight end who takes it up a notch when the lights are brighter. Outstanding hands and plays with a passion.”
The latest: Cooley committed to Ole Miss last December over offers from schools including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi State, LSU, Southern Miss and Tennessee. Over four years at Laurel, he recorded over 4,800 receiving yards and 54 touchdowns; as a senior, he caught 68 passes for 1,448 yards and 20 touchdowns. Cooley also recently won a state 5A title with Laurel and was part of a senior class that won more games than any other in school history. He is the No. 4 prospect in Ole Miss’s 2016 class, which ranks No.3 nationally.
4. Devin Asiasi
High school: De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
Height/weight: 6’4”/265 lbs
National rank: 72
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Asiasi has reported interest in Alabama, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington. After a trip to UCLA earlier this month—his first official visit—Asiasi has plans to visit Washington, Alabama and USC in January, and he could make a verbal commitment after his five official visits.
High school: Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Height/weight: 6’5”/235 lbs
National rank: 145
Status: committed to Ohio State
Scout.com scouting report: “Pro style tight end with above average blocking skills and the ability to release off the line and get open in the five to ten yard range with the best of them. At times drops the easy pass but capable of making the hard catch look easy. Does a great job of getting body in position to make the catch. Must continue working on straight line speed.”
The latest: Hausmann committed to Ohio State in January over offers from the likes of Boston College, Cincinnati, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. He will play at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9, and officially visited the Buckeyes on Dec. 11. Hausmann is the No. 6 recruit in Ohio State’s 2016 class, which is ranked No. 5 in the country.
High school: Imhotep Institute (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Height/weight: 6’3”/239 lbs
National rank: 150
Status: committed to Florida State
Scout.com scouting report: “Upshur is versatile and physical. He can split out side or play with his hand on the ground. He fires off the ball well, stays low and is physical as a blocker. He is a good pass catcher, and does not allow the ball to get into his body. He is quick to tuck it and turn up the field and tackling him is not an easy chore for linebackers or defensive backs. He is a complete tight end with the ability to play h-back.”
The latest: Upshur committed to Florida State in early September. Known as a versatile prospect who can both run block and play as a receiver on the outside, Upshur chose FSU over offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, South Carolina, Temple and USC. His verbal commitment to Florida State came about a month after Nauta decommitted from the Seminoles in July. Upshur is Florida State’s No. 8 recruit for 2016, and the Seminoles’ class is ranked No. 11 in the nation.
High school: St. Augustine (New Orleans, La.)
Height/weight: 6’6”/229 lbs
National rank: 198
Status: soft verbal to LSU
Scout.com scouting report: “Pettigrew gets after it. He plays the game hard with a lot of toughness and fight. Has a good frame and catch the ball is a real strength of his. Has very reliable hands and a long wingspan making tough catches look easy at times. As a blocker, he is solid, but his technique can improve. Deceptive speed. Not a burner, but covers a lot of ground with long strides. Big-time weapon in the red zone. Extends to the ball well and can high-point.”
The latest: Pettigrew committed to LSU in January, but has also been linked to Texas throughout his recruitment to date. He also fielded offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Louisville, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Nebraska and Tulane. Should he remain with LSU, Pettigrew would join the country’s No. 6 recruiting class for 2016.
8. Jacob Mathis
High school: Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
Height/weight: 6’6”/225 lbs
National rank: 208
Scout.com scouting report: “Hands. That is what stands out immediately when breaking down Mathis. Really knows how to catch the ball away from his body. Very strong hands - can catch the ball in traffic, high points ball well, and is very consistent. Fluid too for his size and he is going to get bigger. Plays mostly wide receiver, but projects as a hybrid/tight end. Adjusts to the ball well and tracks the ball in the air. Versatile. Can move around.”
The latest: Having visited just one school—Michigan, back in October—Mathis’s recruitment remains open. He is expected to also visit Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss in January to round out his officials before making a decision. Aside from those schools, Mathis also holds offers from Kentucky, Miami, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio State and Tennessee. He finished his senior season at Berkeley Prep. with 29 receptions for 506 yards and seven touchdowns.
High school: Briar Woods (Ashburn, Va.)
Height/weight: 6’3.5”/231 lbs
National rank: 213
Status: committed to Duke
Scout.com scouting report: “Birmingham is a playmaker at tight end. He has a great combination of size, strength and athleticism. Birmingham runs extremely well and does a nice job getting open. He shows great concentration, has great hands and is very good after the catch. He isn't asked to block much at the high school level, so he needs to improve in that area. But he should contribute early and ultimately become a big-time player at the collegiate level.”
The latest: Birmingham committed to Duke in November 2014 and remains the Blue Devils’ No. 3 recruit in their 2016 class, which ranks No. 23 in the nation. After giving his verbal to Duke, Birmingham mentioned the presence of Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe and tight ends coach Zac Roper as major factors in his commitment. “The second I got back to campus, I knew it was where I wanted to be,” he told Scout.com. “So I thought there was no sense in waiting because I already knew what I wanted. Seeing the campus and the fans, as well as the community and the energy everyone has was great. The coaches and players have a fun and it shows. They love what they do and that’s what it’s all about.”
10. Luke Farrell
High school: Perry (Perry, Ohio)
Height/weight: 6’6”/240 lbs
National rank: 219
Status: committed to Ohio State
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Farrell committed to Ohio State in July, following Kierre Hawkins and Hausmann to give the Buckeyes a deep tight end class for 2016. Farrell told Scout.com then that being the third tight end to commit to Ohio State wasn’t weighing on his mind. “They have two tight ends committed, but that doesn't bother me because all the schools I'm looking at have at least one tight end committed. I think Kierre Hawkins is more of an H-back anyway, and they've proven what they can do with two tight ends.”