In 2013, all 6-foot-5, 260 pounds of Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro stepped into the national spotlight as one of college football’s elite tight ends.
Amaro’s quick feet and route running ability combined with his size proved too much for defenses week after week. In his junior season Amaro caught 106 passes and seven touchdowns. Amaro’s 1,352 receiving yards were the most for any tight end in the nation, putting him in contention for the Mackey Award, which honors college football’s best tight end.
Amaro lost on the Mackey, though, after he decided to take his talents to the NFL, where he is the lone offensive player from the Big 12 expected to be drafted in the first round.
Amaro was the only tight end listed on the Texas Tech football team’s 2013 roster, and his departure leaves coach Kliff Kingsbury with a tremendous hole to fill in the offense. While the 2014 roster is far from set, Kingsbury now must find a replacement for one of the best ends in college football from among younger and less experienced players. None has Amaro’s formidable combination of size, strength and speed.
Gary Moore, officially a wide receiver, is physically the next best option. Listed at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Moore lacks the weight and strength of the massive Amaro, but is more then capable of matching his speed and finesse abilities. If Moore gains weight, Kingsbury could use him as a slot tight end, much like Amaro, and if he can adapt to the role, Tech could maintain some of the speed that fueled its high-powered offense last season.
Beyond Moore, Kingsbury has few options because the Red Raiders lack receivers with size. He could look at inserting another speed receiver in place of a tight end or converting a linebacker. Both reasonable options, but not ideal. Without size down the field, Tech’s offense looses a key element to its success.
Any time a team loses an athlete of Amaro’s caliber, the repercussions are likely to be profound.
Fortunately, Kingsbury has some time. With spring ball and summer practices still in front of him, he can groom and evaluate Moore and other candidates.
Kingsbury, after all, has a knack for developing young talent. During his tenure as an offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, he helped groom redshirt quarterback Johnny Manziel into a Heisman Trophy winner. In his first season at Tech, he led the Red Raiders to a 7-5 season and an upset bowl game victory with two inexperienced freshman quarterbacks running the offense. Finding a way to bandage up his young offense after the loss of Amaro may be his biggest coaching challenge yet.