With spring in the books, we’re taking a look at every position group from the spring and where they stand going into the 2021 season. Today, we’re looking at the tight end position.
Cal’s tight end room is a far cry from where it was even two years ago. The spring of 2019 saw the Bears with four tight ends total, with two scholarship players (Collin Moore and Jake Tonges would both earn scholarships from that group).
The position now has seven scholarship players, soon to be eight when Keleki Latu makes his way to Berkeley in the fall, and has multiple guys who could start at the spots right now. The focus during the spring was developing a number of the young players at the spot, including one of the Bears’ highest rated recruits in the 2021 class, Jermaine Terry. With a new position coach in Geep Chryst, the Bears have made an investment in the position, as they look to utilize the tight end even more in the upcoming season.
The Three Tenured Players
Through the spring, you could divide Cal’s tight end group into two groups. There are three tenured guys entering their fifth year in the program in Collin Moore, Jake Tonges, and Gavin Reinwald. Then there are the less proven players, with Nick Alftin, Elijah Mojarro, Jake Muller, and Terry seeing plenty of opportunity this spring.
In the group of Moore, Tonges, and Reinwald, there’s a clear body of work on what to expect. Tonges has been reliable as a downfield target, to the point where Chryst remarked he could be an-all conference type player at the position in 2021. Tonges has been at his best when he can run down the seams and exploit coverages there, as he did in 2019 (6 receptions on 8 targets for 169 yards and a TD when thrown to between the numbers 10+ yards downfield). Tonges has also made strides as a blocker.
Moore impressed in the spring again, mainly as a pass catcher, as his blocking has won him praise in the past. A converted quarterback, Moore can provide a safety blanket in the passing game for Chase Garbers. He has recorded only five receptions for 40 yards so far in his Cal career, but his willingness as a blocker will get him on the field.
Same goes for Reinwald, who has made massive strides as a blocker, coming to Berkeley as a 205 lb receiver and building himself up into a 240 lb H-back type of tight end. Reinwald has reliable hands, and most of his receptions at Cal have been in the short game (0-9 yards downfield). In a year where the Bears don’t have a fullback on the roster, Reinwald will likely be called upon to perform ‘fullback jobs,’ and his pass-catching ability could serve well in some goal-line play action situations.
The Youth Upcoming
Outside of the core three, the Bears used the spring to figure out what they had in some of the guys who haven’t played or just got to campus. Of the group that had been at Berkeley, Nick Alftin made one of the bigger impacts. At 6’6″ and a former volleyball player/converted outside linebacker, Alftin’s catch radius has been a plus, according to Bill Musgrave, with the former Archbishop Mitty standout carving out a role for himself. Alftin has also grown as a blocker, using his length to ‘cover up defenders.’
Mojarro played some for the Bears in 2020, only 22 total reps (13 on offense, 9 on special teams), but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that special teams rep count increase. Mojarro is another player who has taken to strength and conditioning along with nutrition at Cal, building up to 240 lbs. He has a nice touchdown in the spring game, and also has potential to play the H-back role that Reinwald will have the first crack at.
Muller is in the tight end archetype that the Bears want to continue to bring in. A lanky athlete at 6’5″, the former Capistrano Valley standout is now listed at 240, and showed the ability to run after the catch during the spring game. Muller could see some more time on special teams in 2021 as well, as the tight end position can fill various spots on kick return, on the shield for punt teams, and on the edges for field goal units.
The focus for many during the spring was Jermaine Terry. A former-four star from 15 minutes away in Richmond, there was plenty of belief in Terry coming in, and the early returns have been solid. Listed at 6’4″ and 268 lbs, Moore noted that his teammate is as big as some of the defensive ends he has had to block in the past. Musgrave, Chryst, Wilcox and Moore all noted Terry’s willingness to learn coming in as well, noting that the former Kennedy HS star has been a constant film watcher. Per reports, Terry’s blocking has been impressive, and being projected as an in-line tight end, he’ll need to be good in that category. The true freshman has a ton of promise, and should see some early playing time on offense.
The big thing for the tight end position as a whole was the willingness to utilize more 12 personnel throughout the spring game. With a limited number of tight ends playing, the Bears didn’t use some of their 13 personnel sets that they have in the chamber. Either way, there’s a want to get more players at the position on the field, and this might be the first time in the Justin Wilcox era where they have the depth to do it well.