New head football coach Justin Wilcox and offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin initiated the return of the tight end in Cal’s offense. The projected starter is redshirt senior Ray Hudson and redshirt juniors Jake Ashton and Kyle Wells are listed as interchangeable as second-strings.
The differences between a tight end and a wide receiver may not be vast in numbers but they are monumental in value. In 2014, the 6’7”, 265-pound Jimmy Graham, who played for the New Orleans Saints at the time, petitioned that he was a wide receiver rather than a tight end. As a wide receiver he would have earned $12.132 million, but as a tight end only $7.053 million.
A wide receiver’s job is to catch passes and he is usually lined up on the outside ends of the offense. A tight end is eligible to receive passes as well, but he also has the task of staying in on the block and often stays positioned tighter to the line; big enough to act as an offensive lineman, but quick enough to run routes and go out for a pass.
When distinguishing between a wide receiver and a tight end, one thing is for sure – size matters. The average size for Cal’s wide receiver is about 6’0’’ and 193 pounds, but at tight end it is 6’3’’ and 235 pounds.
Hudson was a wide receiver in 2016, but with a new coaching staff and new offensive scheme, he was moved to the tight end position for 2017. He was recruited to Cal as a tight end and played the position in high school, so he is simply rekindling an old flame from his past.
“I enjoy the position itself because there is a lot more craftsmanship,” Hudson said in a CalBears article. “You can really change small things in your game to improve going one-on-one against a defensive end, when you’re going up against a linebacker in the blocking schemes or you’re running routes inside and reading everything.”
For the Bears, this makes sense as a 6’3’’, 245-pound Hudson is a big body presence who can handle the block and also make moves on a pass. He is a veteran who has played in 34 games with nine starts as a Bear, and in 11 games last season he racked up 165 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
He also was the leading tight end in the spring game, totaling three catches for 35 yards with a one-yard touchdown. With three wide receivers on the field, Hudson may find much of his action coming on the block, but if a defense sleeps on him he is likely to come up with some big receptions.
Ashton has played three total games off the bench in two of three seasons with the Bears and lacks the experience that Hudson brings to the table. Wells, a tight end/fullback in 2016, also lacks experience and has only played in five games off of the bench.
Both second-string ends have seen minimal playing time up to this point and Hudson is likely to be on the field for most of the snaps. The three remaining tight ends are redshirt freshman Matt Laris and true freshmen Ben Moos and Gavin Reinwald. These players are very young and are not likely to see many snaps.
What will create a distinction between all of the six potential tight ends and affect their playing time is their ability to hold down the defensive aspect of their position.
“It’s one of the more challenging positions on the field, depending on how you want to use them,” Baldwin said in a CalBears article. “But it’s a hungry group that’s excited about a slightly different role than they’ve had before, and they’re just going to keep attacking it.”
Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].