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Five Impact Players for 2019: TE Tyler Davis

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The grad transfer will be a vital component of any success on offense this fall

NCAA Football: Connecticut at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

As of the time of publication, it has been 4,210 days since a tight end caught a pass for Tech. It’s been almost twice that long since a tight end caught a pass for an ACC title-winning Tech team.

Given that Tyler Davis has only one season in Atlanta, and that said season is a transition year, it seems unlikely that the UConn graduate transfer will be able to take down the second mark. But if he’s healthy for Week 1, it’s all but certain that he’ll be the first tight end to catch a pass for Tech since Colin Peek in 2007. And since he’s one of only two truly seasoned receivers on the roster (along with Jalen Camp), it’s all but certain that Davis will play a central role for Tech’s offense this fall.

Performance at UConn

Davis actually started out as a quarterback with the Huskies before switching to wide receiver midway through his freshman year, and he only became a full-time tight end as a junior. Even then, he spent plenty of time lining up out wide or in the slot instead of right along the line; however, that mainly serves as evidence of his versatility and how tight ends can bounce between roles in modern offenses.

And if Davis’s film shows one thing, it’s his versatility:

He lines up all over the field—at the usual tight end spot, in the slot, out wide, and even in the backfield on a couple occasions. Davis accelerates reasonably well and can break off a huge gain if he makes a catch in space over the middle. His speed isn’t game-changing, and he isn’t exactly known for being a deep threat; over his three-year UConn career, he averaged 10.6 yards per reception, and some of the long runs in his UConn film would likely be stopped a bit sooner by the sorts of defenses Tech regularly faces.

But he doesn’t need to be a deep threat. Wherever he is, he shows outstanding technique as a pass-catcher, consistently putting his hands out to snag the ball in traffic and showing excellent length when stretching out to make a catch. He’s a proven commodity as a big target who can make contested catches.

Outlook at Tech

Davis was lethal as a red zone target last year. Of his 22 receptions, six went for touchdowns. It’s perfectly in line with his physical strengths, and it speaks to the role that he’ll play at Tech: a safety valve who can offer the new, inexperienced quarterback a safety valve in the passing game and a reliable target when everyone seems to be covered. Regardless of who’s throwing to him, Davis should collect plenty of receptions in third-and-medium situations and should rack up his fair share of touchdowns.

While he wasn’t recording 6-7 catches a game at any point in his UConn career, Davis will still bring valuable experience to a very green receiving corps. Jalen Camp is the only wide receiver with even one start under his belt, and he has 12 career receptions. Malachi Carter and Stephen Dolphus saw a decent amount of playing time in 2018 but combined for all of four receptions, and none of the other returning receivers have any experience of note.

But at least there are people there who have actually played wide receiver at the college level. Davis is joined at tight end by a converted linebacker (Tyler Cooksey), a converted walk-on defensive end (Josh Tukes), and a pair of true freshmen (Dylan Deveney and walk-on Dylan Leonard). It’s a capable group of athletes, but there will be a steep learning curve for all of them.

As a result, Davis will be counted on to lead and teach the tight ends and perhaps the receiving corps as a whole. All the while, he’ll need give the new quarterback—whether it’s Lucas Johnson or one of the younger contenders—a consistent target to look to when he needs to get a few yards or pick up a first down. It’s a lot to ask of a guy who just arrived on campus and has never caught more than 22 passes in a season, but all indications so far are that he’s up to the task.

Conclusion

Ironically, between his good size and his penchant for winning jump balls, Davis would have been an ideal fit as a wide receiver in Paul Johnson’s offense. But he should settle in nicely as a middle-of-the-field weapon and locker room leader in Dave Patenaude’s system, and it won’t be much of a surprise if he finishes his lone year in Atlanta at or near the top of the team stat sheet in every receiving category.