Grant Stevens will bring all-around tight end capabilities to Orlando. After signing two tight ends from the combined 2020 and 2021 classes with really good size, Stevens should complement those two players quite well. That’s good, because UCF’s tight end usage is about to significantly increase.
In case anyone was wondering, UCF will be utilizing tight ends much differently under the direction of Head Coach Gus Malzahn. He’s consistently proven that he will use tight ends to ‘leverage’ a defense and gain a schematic advantage to one side of the formation or the other. To make this work, a bevy of tight ends will be needed in Orlando so that the Knights can mix and match tight end personnel for each desired play call.
Coach Malzahn also likes to use tight ends as extra blockers for good ol’ fashioned power football. For that reason alone, tight end recruiting will be essential moving forward. Now, here’s a look at how Stevens plays, plus how the Knights can build the tight depth chart now that Stevens is in the fold.
Vitals: 6’4”, 230-pounds
Position: Tight End
High School: Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) Nease
Recruitment: Committed to UCF on Sunday, Aug. 22.
What Stevens Does Best
Catch the football and make plays in space. Unlike many other tight ends, Stevens will operate in space more like a wide receiver than a traditional in-line tight end that’s a better blocker than receiver, and he’s a capable blocker with upside to improve in that area of his game. Most importantly, Stevens will gobble up receiving yards and keep the chains moving. Think of him as a big possession receiver.
Stevens as a Blocker
Capable of staying with blocks and driving his man backwards, Stevens showed tenacity. He’s solid with keeping a low base to help keep his power, but there’s still room to improve there. He also needs to keep his arms inside more to accentuate the power that comes from his hips and legs after contact. This will be the area Stevens needs the most work, but he’s a willing blocker and that’s duly noted.
Playing for Nease High School, Stevens played outside as a flex tight end, H-back, and traditional tight end. Based on film only, he’s a nightmare for linebackers and safeties when he’s lined up as an H-back or traditional tight end. When the offense run’s play-action to his side of the formation he gains an advantage.
Acting as if he’s going to block and then going out for a pass provided Stevens with additional time to catch passes regardless of the type of route. He’s a good athlete, so adding one extra step into his route before a defender realizes it’s a pass can be deadly.
While he’s not physically ready to bully college outside linebackers while run blocking, Stevens’ athleticism and tenacity will allow him at least a chance to play as a freshman for the Knights. He’s a combination tight end, and that’s precisely the type of tight end that Coach Malzahn found multiple roles for during his days coaching for Auburn. Now, a look at how Stevens fits in with the past two UCF tight ends.
Building the Tight End Depth Chart
It’s best to evaluate a position’s recruiting efforts over two, possibly three years, to better understand recruiting needs. Stevens will be added to the following two tight ends for an average of one tight end per recruiting class from 2020 through 2022.
The 2020 high school tight end recruit that’s still enrolled at UCF would be Jordan Davis, a now 6’4”, 250-pound redshirt freshman from Sanford (Fla.) Seminole. The 2021 recruiting class brought UCF an early enrollee with Charlie Browder, now up to 6’7”, 260-pounds.
With the size that Davis and Browder bring, each could afford Coach Malzahn and the UCF offense edge blockers, as well as Davis potentially being used as a fullback, and of course both playing traditional roles as tight ends. Having their height and physical stature is one thing, but it’s moot until UCF fans see each tight end go into the game and contribute for the Knights. Let’s see how much they play this fall, as it could help to determine if UCF takes a second tight end within the class of 2022.
The 2022 UCF Tight End Depth Chart Provides Experience, Lacks Depth
Senior tight end Jake Hescock will likely be gone after this season, and there’s a chance that backup Zach Marsh-Wojan will depart after the 2021 season, too. With COVID-19 eligibility being in play, it’s hard to project right now. For now, it’s best to assume that at least one of the younger tight ends needs to play a significant role for the Knights in 2022, if not sooner.
With Stevens added to the UCF recruiting class, the Knights are close to where they need to be with tight end numbers. Depending on the transfer options at the end of the fall semester, perhaps the chance to gain another high school tight end will be too much to pass up.
It’s too early to project if the Knights will even add an additional tight end at all, honestly. That’s what the season is for -- to find out where the depth chart resides -- in an effort to better understand tight end recruiting needs. Then again, if Davis and Browder show excellent promise this fall, then Coach Malzahn and his staff will likely award that scholarship to another position.
Regardless of how the young tight ends progress, Stevens represents the type of tight end that’s excellent for Coach Malzahn’s fast-paced offense. He could conceivably play the in-line tight end position, H-back, fullback, or flex tight end. Tight End Coach Brian Blackmon can allow Stevens to stay in the game when the Knights go tempo and put their foot on the gas because he's versatile.
While some might not understand the importance of Stevens and how Coach Malzahn wants to utilize his roster, this is a truly important chess piece for future UCF offensive depth charts. Stevens is a really good pickup for UCF Football.