Texas’ search for a tight end appeared to be over — until last week.
Head coach Tom Herman must continue the program’s decade-long search for a productive tight end after Texas confirmed on Aug. 17 that senior tight end Andrew Beck will require surgery on his fractured foot. The injury will force him to miss the entirety of the 2017 season.
Herman had already expressed concern over the tight end unit during preseason practices this summer. When asked about his anxiety regarding the position, Herman’s response?
“It’s at an all-time high.”
And that was before Beck’s CAT scan results came in.
“I feel awful for Andrew Beck,” Herman said. “We’re praying and hoping that maybe we can let the thing heal on its own … worst-case scenario it’d be another surgery and many, many months.”
This isn’t Beck’s first foot injury. The tight end suffered from the same broken foot last spring, and Herman did just about everything he could to prevent it from happening again, including flying Beck to Nike Headquarters.
“We flew the kid to Oregon to get a specially designed shoe from Nike for him,” Herman said. “We’re going to leave no stone unturned when it comes to making sure that our guys are as equipped as humanly possible to prevent something like that from happening.”
With Beck now out for the season, a significant question has arose for Herman and Co.: Who will start at tight end?
Aside from Beck, the Longhorns have a pair of freshmen who will compete for starting time alongside redshirt junior Garrett Gray. The Longhorns landed Reese Leitao, the nation’s No. 19 tight end per 247Sports in the 2017 recruiting cycle, as well as Lake Travis product Cade Brewer.
“I think Cade Brewer will help us this year,” Herman said. “How much? I don’t know. But I certainly can’t envision him redshirting.”
Leitao won’t be with the Longhorns to start the year. He’s currently suspended for the season’s first two games. And as for Gray, although he boasts some experience at the collegiate level, he’s never caught a pass at the NCAA level, spending his Longhorn career thus far on special teams. He’ll be used primarily as a run blocker in Herman’s offense system.
Beck will carry his redshirt through this season and will remain eligible to return to the Longhorns in 2018. But that’s a year away. For now, Herman needs to find a viable tight end. And the clock is ticking.