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May 29, 2014

Ranking the Big Ten: TE

As Nebraska prepares for another run through the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the tight end position in the Big Ten heading into 2014.

1. Devin Funchess, Michigan, 6-5, 230, Jr.
The reigning Big Ten tight end of the year, Michigan junior Devin Funchess is a projected first round draft pick and the No. 1 overall prospect at his position on most early NFL boards. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound Funchess caught 47 passes for 727 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. The versatile Funchess causes mismatch problems for any defense he faces because of his size and speed. He's built like a tight end, but plays more like a split end.
2. Tyler Kroft, Rutgers, 6-6, 240, Jr.
Like Funchess, Rutgers junior Tyler Kroft was a first-team all-conference tight end in his league a year ago. The 6-foot-6, 240 pound Kroft enters the Big Ten as the reigning AAC first-team tight end in 2013 after catching a team high 43 passes for 573 yards and four touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how Kroft adjust to the Big Ten, where the defense feature better linebackers and safeties used to covering big bodied tight ends.
3. Maxx Williams, Minnesota, 6-4, 255, So.
One of the real surprises to come out of Minnesota's offense a year ago was tight end Maxx Williams. As a freshman, Williams was the Gophers leading receiver with 25 catches for 417 yards and five touchdowns. He was recognized as one of the top freshman tight ends in the country and became a critical target for Minnesota on third down.
4. Dan Vitale, Northwestern, 6-2, 225, Jr.
Over the last two years Northwestern tight end/h-back Dan Vitale has caught 62 passes for 670 yards and five touchdowns. A year ago the 6-foot-2, 225 pound Vitale caught a pass in every game. Nebraska fans might remember him best after he scored a critical touchdown for Northwestern in the Huskers thrilling victory over the Wildcats during the 2012 season. Vitale won't wow you with numbers, but he plays a very important role in NU's offense both as a receiver and blocker.
5. Jesse James, Penn State, 6-7, 257, Jr.
Top to bottom Penn State has had the most impressive tight end group in the Big Ten the last two seasons. Leading the way again for PSU in 2014 will be junior Jesse James, who's caught 40 passes for 609 yards and eight touchdowns over the last two seasons. Nebraska fans will remember James best after he broke free from a Corey Cooper hit and tight roped the sidelines for a long touchdown. It will be interesting to see how James and the Nittany Lions other tight ends fit into Penn State's new offense in 2014.

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