UTSA football: Assessing the tight ends

    Fourth in a position-by-position series looking at the 2022 UTSA Roadrunners after spring practice.

    Who’s back: Oscar Cardenas, junior redshirt; Dan Dishman, sophomore redshirt; Gavin Sharp, senior; Allen Horace, sophomore redshirt; Ke’Chawn Compton, senior redshirt; Peter Gray, senior redshirt; JaCorey Hyder, freshman redshirt.

    Who’s gone: Leroy Watson, Myles Benning

    2022 signed: Houston Thomas

    What to expect: Oscar Cardenas was on the end of one of the most memorable plays in UTSA football history last season, hauling in a 1-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of a 34-31 win against UAB that lifted the Roadrunners to the Conference USA West division championship.

    After quarterback Frank Harris picked up a fumbled snap off the Alamodome turf and rolled to his left, he lofted a pass toward the back of the end zone, where Cardenas tracked down a deflection with two hands to secure the decisive score.

    On a team with three standouts at receiver in Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus and De’Corian Clark, Cardenas was an unlikely target for one of the year’s most important receptions. He hauled in no more than two catches in any game last season, finishing the year with 16 grabs, 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    Still, Cardenas, a Brandeis product, proved to be indispensable as a blocker, punishing opponents with his 6-foot-4, 275-pound build. The Roadrunners often utilized Cardenas and 6-foot-5, 275-pound tight end Leroy Watson at the same time in 2021, giving UTSA the equivalent of two additional linemen in the run game as Traylor said the offense played one back with two tight ends on about half of its snaps.

    Watson finished the year with just seven catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, exhausting his eligibility and signing with the Atlanta Falcons this month as an undrafted free agent.

    UTSA will likely have to shift its approach to the position in 2022, with most of the tight ends on the depth chart profiling more as receivers than blockers.

    Senior Gavin Sharp, who stands 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, has compiled 36 catches for 294 yards and a touchdown as a four-year regular in the rotation. Sophomore Dan Dishman, another rangy target at 6-5 and 235 pounds, was the only other tight end to catch a pass last year, hauling in two for 20 yards.

    Redshirt sophomore Allen Horace (6-4, 250) continues to be a name to watch, with coach Jeff Traylor calling him “freakishly talented” during the buildup to the 2021 season. But Horace, who signed with UTSA in the class of 2020 as 247Sports’ highest-rated recruit in program history, has struggled to carve out a role due to injury, missing all of last season. He also sat out the Roadrunners’ spring practice this year, wearing a cast on his left hand.

    For a second more physical option to complement Cardenas near the goal line, the Roadrunners may turn to senior Peter Gray, a 6-4, 250-pounder who moved from defensive line to tight end last spring.

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