Hi everyone; after taking a hiatus from these position previews for a couple of weeks, we’re going to dive back in and try to knock out the rest of the position groups before the start of the season. Today, we’re taking a look at the tight end position.
The Big Picture:
During the 2021-2022 offseason, adding a dynamic receiving tight end was a big priority for Lane Kiffin, and he appeared to knock it out of the park, landing USC freshman phenom Michael Trigg. After a world-beater performance in the Spring game, things went from mediocre to worse for Trigg during the season. Casey Kelly filled in for Trigg after a mid-season injury, but struggled to find his mojo after an offseason ACL tear. Trigg and Kelly were really the only contributors at tight end, as freshman Kyrin Heath got some playing time at tight end, but was mostly a special teamer, and did not log a catch on the season. Kiffin has added some pieces over the offseason, and for the first time in his tenure at Ole Miss has a tight end room with some real depth.
Let’s take a quick look at the returners:
- Michael Trigg, now a junior, is an absolute physical specimen with crazy athleticism. Trigg once again dominated the Ole Miss Spring game this offseason, and the word on the street was that the talented transfer had matured considerably since his disappointing showing last year ended in an injury, followed by a suspension. However, Trigg appears to have taken a step back, and has been working more with the second and third teams during fall camp after an apparent argument with coaches at practice.
- Sophomore Kyrin Heath is the only other returning Rebel tight end with any snaps under his belt. Listed at 6’4, 235 lbs, Heath has been getting plenty of first and second team snaps this Fall camp, with Trigg back in the doghouse to some extent. It’s still unclear what Heath’s skillset is, as we haven’t seen him play many TE snaps, and he didn’t make an impression in the Spring game.
- RS sophomore Hudson Wolfe was a big-time signee in the 2021 class; initially rated as one of the top three or so tight ends in the country, Wolfe sustained a back injury that led many big-time programs to back off, allowing Ole Miss to swoop in late and grab him. With a 6’7 frame and smooth pass-catching skills (judging by his high school highlights), Wolfe has been a frequent topic of message board chatter due to his potential. Unfortunately, his injury has cost him two valuable years of development at Ole Miss. This year though, he’s apparently cleared for contact, and has been mostly a full-go participant in practices. No word on what his expected role might be, but at this point, any meaningful playing time for Wolfe would be a hell of a comeback story.
Lane Kiffin added two names to the tight end room, addressing both the present and the future at the position:
- Caden Prieskorn, a senior transfer from Memphis, was one of the most celebrated portal acquisitions for the Rebs over the offseason. While Michael Trigg is essentially a big wide receiver trying to learn the ins and outs of a difficult position, Prieskorn is a big, prototypical tight end looking to make his name on a bigger stage in preparation for the NFL draft. Essentially, this is his “prove it” year, and a lot of players seem to thrive in that situation. Despite his big frame (6’5, 255), Prieskorn is well above average as a receiving threat, based on his highlights from Memphis. He has All-SEC upside, and could give the Rebs an elite presence at the TE position not seen since the days of Dawson Knox and Evan Engram.
- Jayvontay Conner is a true freshman from Winston-Salem, NC, and while he flew under the radar a bit in his recruiting rankings, the staff was excited about him from the get-go, and sure enough, he appears to have shown up in awesome shape and looking like a future playmaker. It’s unclear if he’ll play much this year or not, but if the injury bug bites, or if Trigg, Wolfe, etc. don’t pan out for whatever reason, Conner looks like a guy who could mix it up early if needed.
- Trigg. That’s it. If Michael Trigg can get his affairs in order and contribute to the team, it raises the ceiling of the Ole Miss offense considerably. Prieskorn seems to be as much of a sure thing as you can get from the portal, and while he could play on Sundays in 2024, he’s still not the receiving threat that Trigg could be.
- Who else besides Trigg and Prieskorn could contribute? We know so little about Kyrin Heath and Hudson Wolfe at this point, it’s hard to guess what their potential impact could be if called on.
RCR Hot Taeks:
- Get ready to ride the Trigg roller coaster again. I’m picking him to have at least one 100-yard game, and to miss at least two games for… reasons. Would love to be wrong.
- It’ll be tough competition, but Prieskorn will duke it out with LSU’s Mason Taylor and Alabama’s CJ Dippre to be the best SEC tight end that plays for someone other than Georgia.
- Lane Kiffin’s “pro mindset” philosophy strikes again, and we don’t see much depth at the TE position beyond Prieskorn and Trigg.
Overall offseason grade: A
It was starting to look like Kiffin had really whiffed on addressing the tight end spot over the offseason, with guys like Jaheim Bell, CJ Dippre, and Rivaldo Fairweather heading elsewhere. Finding and securing Prieskorn was a huge, huge win. And while Conner wasn’t a big-time national prospect, the early reviews are good, and in the NIL era, you can’t break out the wallet for everyone. Coaches get some points for continuing to work with Trigg, too.