SI All-American: Ranking the Top 10 Y - Tight Ends in the Class of 2021
Edwin Weathersby II
After compiling several months worth of data in addition to cycling back for a closer look at the 2019 football season, SI All-American has put pen to paper at each position group.
As we work towards the preseason SI99, ranking the top 99 college football prospects regardless of position, establishing a top 10 ahead of the 2020 season for each position group plays paramount. Two tight end groups, finishing with Tight End - Y, are capping this week. The development of this position group over recent years has been critical to track on both Saturdays and Sundays, with an increased value at the tight end position for the two groups.
The Y distinction focuses on the more conventional tight end prospect compared to the H. This group is most comfortable in-line, attached to the offensive line as an extended blocker, yet with the receiving skill to put pressure on the defense regardless of alignment.
Here are the best of the best within the Tight End - Y projections ahead of the 2020 football season.
1. Cane Berrong, Hartwell (Ga.) Hart County
6-foot-4, 230 pounds
Committed to Notre Dame
While we list him as the top Y-Tight End prospect currently on our positional board, Berrong could just as easily be the top H-tight end as well. The Georgia native has ideal formational flexibility to be productive from many different alignments. Be it as a traditional in-line player, flexed in the slot, on the perimeter or from the wing, the Notre Dame commitment can produce and win his isolation matchups, while also presenting as a fine chess piece in an offensive scheme. Berrong has a plus receiving package, led by his solid hands and ability to catch in a crowd. His speed in the open field shows up on tape, as Berrong can turn shallows, crossers, drags and flats into chunk plays, while stretching the seams. He’s an impressive blocker, who can also be asked to escort runners through alleys in the run game. Berrong’s floor is among the highest in this class, and we feel strongly that he will ascend into a productive player in South Bend.
2. Thomas Fidone, Council Bluffs (Iowa) Lewis Central
6-foot-5, 225 pounds
Schools of interest: LSU, Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan, among others
Fidone is the best pure receiver in the country among high-end tight end prospects. He essentially is a big slot receiver right now, often aligning as a flex player. He has the length of a Y-tight end, but the movement skills of an H. Fidone has solid route-running traits, where he can grow gaps on in-breaking routes. He can also put stress on ‘backers and safeties on deep overs and climb the ladder on slot fades and posts. Fidone can also work as a boundary-X receiver and win his isolation matchups. While he’s a willing blocker, Fidone will require some seasoning in this area of his game, though his length and athleticism definitely will be foundational assets to work with. However, he is the ideal tight end prospect for today’s pass-happy game and could make the biggest long-term impact wherever he ends up out of all players on this list.
3. Hudson Wolfe, Savannah (Tenn.) Hardin County
6-foot-5, 245 pounds
Committed to Tennessee
Wolfe is staying in-state and committed to Tennessee, and the Vols got themselves a good one en route to Knoxville. He’s a classic Y-tight end prospect who is comfortable working detached in the slot in 2x2 sets, as well as an in-line player. Wolfe has some savvy as a route-runner, showing avoidability of underneath traffic in his stems. He can execute inside verticals and slot fades, plus use his size to pin coverage away from catch points on sit routes. We’ve also seen Wolfe execute wheel-routes from wing alignments. The big man has good hands and eye-tracking, showing both adjust and plucking traits. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt will also love the fact that Wolfe is run-game friendly, showing strength and pride to play to size at collision points and working to finish. He’s definitely a player the Vols should be able to win with.
4. Moliki Motavao, Henderson (Nev.) Liberty
6-foot-6, 240 pounds
Committed to Oregon
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal worked his way up as an OL/TE coach, and he has a good incoming pupil in Motavao. The future Duck can work in-line as a Y, as a backside-X on the perimeter and be flexed out as 2 or 3 in trips. His current route tree features seams, fades, corners, flats and production in the screen game, among other things. Motavao also is capable of being a lead blocker in the run game, using his size and squaring to targets well before solid pop upon contact. Oregon tight ends coach Bobby Williams is also among the most respected coaches in the profession, thus offering Motavao a very good chance to blossom as a balanced contributor to the offense in Eugene.
5. Mason Brotherton, Mena (Ark.) Mena
6-foot-5, 245 pounds
Committed to Kansas
Brotherton is another prospect on this list going to a school whose head coach has a tight end background. Les Miles tutored seam-players before ascending to his head coaching post. The big-framed Brotherton will be beloved by The Mad Hatter, as he has traits of a classic Y-tight end due to his ability to factor in both the run and pass game. The Arkansas native has good route-running traits, subtly altering his stems when releasing, setting up coverage with subtle head fakes and using a solid bam step at junctions. He plays to his size at the point as a blocker, as he’s among the most accurate punchers on this list with his hand placement on targets and is reliable to latch and sustain to aid in the run game. Brotherton should certainly help contribute to the Jayhawks’ turnaround efforts.
6. Terrance Ferguson, Littleton (Colo.) Heritage
6-foot-5, 230 pounds
Committed to Oregon
The future Duck not only possesses an ideal, rock solid frame, but he really flashes along the way. Ferguson splashes attached as both a blocker and receiver, can overwhelm a defender while split out, one-on-one, and even shines coming out of the backfield as a heat-seeking lead blocker and pass catcher. He runs relatively well for his size and tracks the football with efficiency, displaying elite ball skills and catch radius when the ball is in the air. There is easy athleticism on display with one of Colorado's top athletes, with a long stride and well above average route running resulting in steady production. Ferguson, who has averaged better than 900 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last two varsity campaigns, letters in three other varsity sports (basketball, lacrosse, track and field) at the prep level. Once he adds a bit more muscle mass to his frame, he'll be ready to see the field in Eugene as a Y or H tight end given his skill set.
7. Bryson Nesbit, Charlotte (N.C.) South Mecklenburg
6-foot-6, 220 pounds
Considering North Carolina, South Carolina, NC State, Michigan, Ohio State, Auburn, LSU, Michigan State and others
One of just two uncommitted tight ends in this top 10, Nesbit may be the most inexperienced prospect on the list with just one varsity football season under his belt. The South Carolina legacy prospect, whose father Jamar played in the NFL for a decade as an offensive lineman, flashes considerable natural ability even in the limited sample. He is a towering physical specimen at 6-foot-6 with balanced traits as a pass catcher and blocker on occasion. He works well in a handful of alignments with enough athleticism to be showcased in the catch-and-run passing game at his high school. Nesbit's basketball background shines on Friday nights with his elite ball tracking ability and strong hand-eye coordination. Few can pluck the football away from their body like he can, in stationary and on the go situations, part of many reasons the offer list is expansive despite the football inexperience.
8. Jack Pugh, Hilliard (Ohio) Bradley
6-foot-5, 235 pounds
Committed to Wisconsin
One would expect a balanced tight end type being committed to a program with an offensive identity like Wisconsin's and Pugh puts those elements together on tape. There is true comfort in the trenches on display, evidenced by good production and flashes even as a defensive line varsity player. Physicality is apparent here regardless of responsibility within a given play, as a blocker, on catch-and-run scenarios and even when contested at the catch point. Pugh has a grit about him that can be seen on just about every highlight, complimenting his linear and vertical athleticism, plus awareness against zone coverage and great length. A bit more polish as a run blocker will round out his game in Madison, where there should be high expectations forming.
9. Lake McRee, Austin (Texas) Lake Travis
6-foot-4, 217 pounds
Committed to Southern Cal
The one-time Texas commitment, now headed to USC, appears close to fully healthy following a torn ACL that cost him the 2019 season, suffered nearly exactly one year ago. McRee showed enough as a sophomore to hold steady as one of America's top tight end prospects with his athletic profile and overall ceiling. His varsity experience is that of a jumbo wide receiver at this stage of his development, flashing in one of America's most competitive high school areas in the Lone Star State. He displays easy acceleration skill and gets to his top speed in a few, long strides while possessing the positional awareness to alter his routes dependent on the defender's leverage. McRee is quicker than fast and can use that subtly at the top of his breaks to create additional separation to the second and even third level, part of the reason we'll bet on him despite the relative inexperience.
10. Sam Hart, Aurora (Colo.) Cherokee Trail
6-foot-5, 225 pounds
Committed to Ohio State
Another balanced tight end talented headed to play college ball in the Big Ten. Hart often looks like the top prospect on the field at any position on Friday nights in Colorado, flashing as a defensive end as much as he does on offense. Comfortable in-line or split out wide with isolation coverage, he is quicker than fast for his size with great footwork often on display within his responsibility. While he may not challenge the depth of a secondary down the line, there is strong awareness and toughness at play in his underneath work as a pass catcher. Hart is one of the most technical blockers on this list from a drive and hand-placement perspective, even comfortable on combo efforts with the offensive tackle. This is as classic a Y-tight end as one would see at the prep level.
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John Garcia, Jr. contributed to this feature.