Photo courtesy of SMU athletics
On Jan. 13, SMU landed commitments from two tight end transfers, Grant Calcaterra and Simon Gonzalez.
These come on the heels of landing a commitment from tight end Nolan Matthews, another transfer, back on Nov. 22. So, what does the tight end room look like, and where will these three new guys fit?
Current State of the Tight End Room
With Kylen Granson deciding to enter the 2021 NFL Draft, the tight end room will have a lack of receiving experience at the outset of the 2021 season. The former Rice Owl turned 119 targets into 78 receptions in his two seasons with SMU.
What will be sorely missed in Granson, is the trust the staff and quarterback Shane Buechele had for him. For example, 70 of Granson’s 78 receptions either created first downs or touchdowns — proof that he had their trust as a big-time playmaker.
As for the rest of the tight ends, the Cornell transfer, Tommy McIntyre, is a solid blocking tight end. At 6-foot-8, McIntyre also holds the distinction of being the tallest Mustang. He’s two inches taller than anyone else on the roster.
With the extra year of eligibility, the senior can come back for another season. He has not made a decision publicly yet.
Ben Redding is another blocking tight end. One of the few tight ends to start his journey with SMU, Redding has six targets in 141 career snaps.
The only other tight end currently on the roster to have seen playing time is Judah Bell. Bell, the former wide receiver, showed some great potential as a receiving tight end in the season finale. It was his first game seeing three or more targets since Week 12 of 2018, and his first time ever seeing five or more targets at the college level. Bell finished with seven catches for 53 yards in a 52-38 loss to East Carolina.
The New Additions
The first of the transfers, the former Arizona State Sun Devil is a native of Frisco, Tex. A 3-star from the class of 2019, he saw limited playing time in 2019 with Arizona State. In the time he did play, Matthews played 19 snaps per game.
Just over half of those snaps were as an inline tight end, while around a third of them came in the slot. Granson spent just under half of his time in the slot this past season. After Granson put in so much work in the slot, it will be interesting to see if that’s a role that Matthews can fill.
The former Texas Tech Red Raider is a native of Magnolia, Tex. Another 3-star from the class of 2019, Gonzalez has seen the least amount of playing time of the three. While at Texas Tech, Gonzalez only saw a total of 26 snaps — all on special teams.
He is by far the biggest unknown, but transferring to SMU after he entered the portal is understandable. Before committing to Texas Tech, he only visited two schools: Texas Tech and SMU.
The former Oklahoma Sooner is a native of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. He has had the longest winding journey of the three guys in this section. The only of the three new additions to not have an offer from SMU out of high school, Calcaterra was a 4-star for the class of 2017.
On Nov. 21, 2019, Calcaterra released a three-minute video, announcing his retirement from football. The main reason was due to concerns about concussions and his long-term health.
However, he had a change of heart and announced on Aug. 15, 2020 that he was coming back and entering the transfer portal. On Dec. 16, 2020, it was announced that he had committed to Auburn, but he again had a change of heart. Less than a month later, on Jan. 8, Calcaterra announced he was decommitting from Auburn.
On Wednesday, he announced that he was committed to SMU. For Mustang fans, hopefully this is his final stop.
He has by far the most experience, having notched 41 receptions, for 637 receiving yards, and nine receiving touchdowns in 20 career games. Calcaterra only spent 34 of his 692 offensive snaps at Oklahoma in the inline tight end position despite having the size and label of tight end. A vast majority of his experience comes from the slot — something that the Mustang coaching staff will take into account when trying to replace Granson’s production.
Depth Chart Predictions for 2021
The whole point of this article is to put a best guess on what the now clustered tight end room will look like on the actual field. So, let’s do that.
In a perfect world without injury, the depth chart should look something like this:
TE 1: Grant Calcaterra
Calcaterra would likely be the primary tight end because he’s the most talented and experienced in this room. He has also played in a Lincoln Riley system, and he’s familiar with potential starting quarterback, Tanner Mordecai. They were at Oklahoma together in 2018 and 2019.
TE 2: Judah Bell
Bell has the most experience as a receiving tight end in a Mustangs’ uniform. However, he’s the lightest of the six, and is the only one with playing experience at wide receiver. It’s unlikely that the coaching staff wants to pull the plug on a position change that they and Bell invested so much time and energy into.
However, it is likely that his position is going to be the most ambiguous it’s been in his four years. Regardless of whatever arbitrary label of tight end or wide receiver you may want to give him, he should see the field next season in a much bigger role. Oh, and despite having been with SMU for four years already, he’s going to have three more years of eligibility.
TE 3: Nolan Matthews
Matthews and Bell are fairly similar in playing style and talent. This was really splitting hairs, but Bell is more familiar with the system and seems more versatile with his ability to be a hybrid receiver/tight end. If Calcaterra’s health becomes an issue, Matthews could easily leapfrog Bell and become the starter.
TE 4, 5, and 6: Tommy McIntyre, Ben Redding, and Simon Gonzalez
These names are lumped together because it’s unlikely we hear them mentioned on broadcasts very often. In 2021, these guys will play primarily on special teams and in the run game. Those are certainly valuable facets of the game, but these three are not as dynamic nor do they possess such alluring skill sets.