College Football Predictions: 5 Stud TEs Who Will Give Defenses Fits in 2012

Dan GigliottiCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2012

College Football Predictions: 5 Stud TEs Who Will Give Defenses Fits in 2012

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    College football tight ends have the opportunity to ravage opposing defenses focused on other skill players.

    They have the benefit of playing behind position players who typically get more touches and looks from their respective offenses and more respect from opposing defenses.

    The following five players, selected to the 2012 John Mackey Award watch list, given to the most outstanding tight end in the Football Bowl Subdivision, are more than just blockers and decoys.

    They’re studs.

Chris Gragg, Arkansas, Sr.

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    If Gragg’s performance last season against Mississippi State is any indication, SEC defenses won’t be excited to face him.

    Against the Bulldogs, Gragg caught eight balls for 119 yards and one touchdown, all career-high numbers.

    Gragg’s junior year success didn’t stop there, finishing with 41 grabs for 518 yards on the season.

    It doesn’t hurt him having First Team All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson behind center. Wilson threw 438 times last season for 3,638 yards.

    Gragg should get plenty of opportunity to build on his 2011 numbers, unless too much of the Razorbacks' new system under John L. Smith is focused around the return of 2010 All-SEC running back Knile Davis.

Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, Sr.

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    Lutzenkirchen had seven touchdowns in 24 receptions. That’s a great average.

    He is recovering from shoulder injury, according to AL.com, which has kept him out of 2012 spring drills.

    If he is able to come back healthy, he will garner much attention from opposing defenses in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

    And if he continues to make catches like the above Geico Play of the Year nominee, Tigers fans will have a heck of a fun time watching him play.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington, So.

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    Seferian-Jenkins will be a John Mackey Award finalist come season's end, after an impressive Husky debut last season.

    After bulking up during the offseason, the dual basketball and football player lost nearly 20 pounds since the beginning of spring and “feels a lot quicker,” according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

    His 41 grabs for 538 yards in 2011 are only a glimpse of what Seferian-Jenkins is capable of. The sophomore will enjoy an increased role in the Washington offense with the departure of running back Chris Polk and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar.

    Quarterback Keith Price is one of the most accurate in the country, setting a Husky record in completion percentage at 66.9 percent.

    He should have no trouble finding Seferian-Jenkins in 2012.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa, Jr.

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    The only factor keeping Fiedorowicz from putting up huge numbers in 2012 is head coach Kirk Ferentz and returning starting quarterback James Vandenberg getting him the ball.

    Though Fiedorowicz played in all 13 games for the Hawkeyes last season, he didn’t have the chance to touch the ball much.

    As a sophomore in 2011, he finished with 16 receptions for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Those modest numbers will be elevated this year in Iowa’s pass-heavy offense.

    Last year, Vandenberg threw the ball 404 times, second-most in Iowa history for one season.

    If the senior quarterback is smart, he will find Fiedorowicz more in 2012.

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, Sr.

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    There are two reasons why Eifert would not win the John Mackey Award this season: if head coach Brian Kelly makes the wrong decision at quarterback or if he doesn’t get help from his wide receivers.

    Eifert is a consensus First Team All-American pick this preseason, who should build on impressive numbers from last season.

    With 63 catches for 803 yards, the senior from Indiana led all FBS tight ends in both categories in 2011.

    He has the second-most receptions and receiving yards in Notre Dame history, already besting the likes of Anthony Fasano.

    Kelly is choosing from three different starting quarterbacks right now, according to CBSSports.com, which could make Eifert wish he had entered the NFL draft. Nevertheless, he is back to terrorize defenses in 2012.