With the loss of All-Mountain West tight ends Steven Walker and Kivon Cartwright this past season, a drop-off at the position heading into the 2016 season might have been expected.
Heading into camp, two faces missing in the tight end group were JUCO transfer Darneail Jenkins and Mitch Parsons. Jenkins did not qualify thus will not join the team, and Parsons has left the program.
While being a bit thinned out to start fall camp, there might not be a position group on the field with more confidence or one that has instilled more confidence in the CSU staff than the tight ends.
Leading the group into the season are seniors Nolan Peralta and Danny Nwosu, who are joined this year by JUCO All-American Dalton Fackrell from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. Rounding out the group is talented freshman Isiah Pannunzio from Pueblo, CO, and intriguing former minor league baseball player Kevin Walter out of Broomfield, CO.
The position has been praised by coach Mike Bobo through the first few days of camp for their knowledge of the offense and their willingness to lead on that side of the ball. With the Rams’ inexperience at wide receiver going into camp, continued leadership and output from the tight end position is even more important to the team. While the receivers have been trying gain traction with the offense, the tight ends have lifted up the quarterbacks and the offense as a whole.
“Now tight ends, I really believe they are doing a really good job of knowing where they are supposed to be,” Bobo said. “Danny (Nwosu) and Nolan (Peralta) and Fackrell they kind of understand.”
Experience comes in the form of Peralta and Nwosu, who spent most of the last season blocking for CSU running backs instead of catching passes. Peralta only has six career catches and Nwosu spent much of last season working at fullback, but the seniors look fluid in the offense thus far and poised to elevate their game as pass catchers. The seniors have taken the lead in the tight end room and with the offense at practice.
“(Just) putting it on our shoulders to elevate the level of play in our position group and try and bring other position groups along,” Peralta said. “Be that motivation and kind of spark for the offense when things aren’t going so well at practice.”
Fackrell looks like he might be the most developed pass-catcher of the group. Bobo praised Fackrell for his ball skills after two days of practice, and both Peralta and Bobo lauded Fackrell for his work ethic and comprehension of the offense since he arrived in the summer.
“He’s come in with the attitude that he is going to come in and play and that’s only just increasing the competition and overall quality of our tight end group,” Peralta said.
Peralta understands the position the tight ends are in at this point in camp, and they are all comfortable with being seen as the “security blanket.” They have been the focal point of the passing game thus far, and Peralta and the rest of the group are more than ready to be the center of the offense in the 2016 season if they are called upon.
“We just want to be that kind of outlet for the quarterbacks at all times,” Peralta said. “When he needs a big play or a big catch he knows he can look to us and get it done.”
“I think we are doing a really good job of getting them the ball this year,” quarterback Nick Stevens said. “They are kind of being a dominant force on the field right now.”
As far as a dominant force on the field, it would not come as a surprise to see multiple tight end sets from the offense throughout the season, and even at certain points all three of the leading tight ends might be on the field together.
“We want to get as many personnel packages as we can where we are all out on the field playing at the same time,” Peralta said. “We feel like we can help the team out and be successful with as many of us on the field as we can.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5