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2017 Vanderbilt Football Position Previews: Tight Ends

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Three returning tight ends caught a touchdown pass in 2016.

NCAA Football: Tennessee State at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

How heavily does Vanderbilt’s offense feature the tight end? Here’s a helpful stat:

Vanderbilt WRs, 2016: 137 receptions, 1838 yards, 3 TD

Vanderbilt TEs, 2016: 40 receptions, 426 yards, 4 TD

While Vanderbilt’s receivers accounted for a lot more catches, incredibly, the group of tight ends caught more touchdown passes last year than the receivers did. And three different tight ends scored a touchdown compared to just two different receivers. (Fullback Bailey McElwain also caught a pair of touchdown passes.)

Even better, all three of the touchdown-catching tight ends return in 2017.

Nathan Marcus, redshirt senior: Marcus started 12 games as a junior and caught 11 passes for 73 yards, and he caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Western Kentucky. At 6’5" and 243 pounds, his main function is as an extra blocker in the run game, but he’s shown himself to be versatile enough to keep defenses honest.

Jared Pinkney, redshirt sophomore: As a redshirt freshman, Pinkney was fifth on the team in receptions (22) and receiving yards (274), and tied for the team lead with two TD catches which came against Tennessee State and Auburn. Pinkney is a presumptive starter after starting six games last year.

Sam Dobbs, junior: When not mocking sorority recruitment videos or flying drones over Nashville Fourth of July celebrations Dobbs is also a tight end for Vanderbilt’s football team, which is about the least notable thing about the Cinema and Media Arts major who had a jam session with pianist/fullback Jaire George in front of ESPN cameras. Oh, and Dobbs also caught 6 passes for 73 yards and scored a touchdown against Tennessee. The whole point of this is that Sam Dobbs is probably cooler than you.

Turner Cockrell, redshirt freshman: Cockrell redshirted last year and has gotten his weight up to 230 after playing at 205 in high school. He’s a big target at 6’5" and had a 25.3 yards per catch average in high school, but he’s behind Pinkney, Marcus, and Dobbs on the depth chart.