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Insider

Oregon's tight end streak continues

7/9/2012

The moniker of "Tight End U" is generally associated with the University of Miami because of the numbers and the success of former Hurricanes in the league. In terms of production and star power, it is hard to argue for anyone but Miami as the one program to hold the title.

While they haven't enjoyed the All-Pro careers of the Hurricanes, the Oregon Ducks have an impressive run of tight ends moving on to the NFL. In fact, you have to go back to the late 1980s to find a Ducks starting tight end that didn't at least make it onto an NFL practice squad.

Jeff Thomason, Willie Tate and Josh Wilcox all signed with NFL teams in the early to mid 1990s, with Thomason enjoying a lengthy career. Since 1996, the only Ducks starters at tight end to go undrafted are Enyi Nwamuo and Tim Day, who both signed on with NFL teams.

Blake Spence was drafted by the Jets in 1998 and since then, the Ducks have had great luck at the position.

Justin Peelle was drafted in 2001 by the San Diego Chargers and remains in the NFL today. George Wrighster was up next and was drafted by Jacksonville in 2003 and remained in the league until 2009. Dante Rosario was selected by the Carolina Panthers in 2007 and was signed this spring by the San Diego Chargers.

Ed Dickson was next up in the rotation and stood out so much at Oregon that the Baltimore Ravens made him their third-round selection in 2010. Dickson remains with the Ravens and has shown flashes of becoming a serious threat in the Ravens offense.

In this past NFL draft, David Paulson went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round after a standout career in Eugene.

Paulson isn't your prototypical NFL tight end but his success at Oregon, along with good hands drew enough attention to cause the legendary Steelers franchise to spend a draft pick on him and his potential.

Paulson certainly benefited from the wide-open, fast-paced system the Ducks run under Chip Kelly, but he is the only one of the aforementioned former Ducks to have played his whole career in the spread-option offense.

Oregon tight ends coach Tom Osborne is the type of coach to deflect and give all the praise to his players but you don't have a run like he has had in producing NFL players without some serious coaching ability.

After sending all of his Ducks tight ends to the NFL from 1995-2000, Osborne left for Arizona State, where he coached two of the most successful tight ends in Pac-10/12 history. Todd Heap and Zach Miller both had outstanding college careers in Tempe before going on to success in the NFL.

When Osborne returned to Eugene in 2007, he helped turn Dickson into a star and groomed Paulson to take over for the departed Dickson.

Osborne has been given some amazing talent to work with throughout his career but he has done a remarkable job of transforming them from skilled athletes into NFL caliber players.

Oregon's current offensive system definitely holds a benefit for Oregon's offensive players and the numbers can be slightly misleading in terms of future success in the NFL. Regardless of the system in place, the coaches or the talent level of the rest of the roster, Oregon has to be included in any discussion about tight end success.

While there is no Jimmy Graham, Kellen Winslow or Jeremy Shockey among Oregon's NFL tight ends, a school has to be considered a legitimate NFL-producing factory if you need to dig nearly a quarter century back in history to find a starter that never touched the NFL.

With Colt Lyerla, perhaps the most athletic tight end in Ducks history, taking over the reins in 2012 and a number of young, talented tight ends waiting in the wings, it doesn't appear that Oregon will continue the streak of NFL tight ends any time in the near future.