Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series previewing the 2019 Boise State football team by position. The previews will appear throughout August. Previously: Defensive line, running backs. Check out the position-by-position roster here.
The end of the 2018 college football season wasn’t easy for Garrett Collingham.
Unbeknownst to most Boise State fans, the 6-foot-4, 242-pound tight end from Mountain View High was playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury he suffered against BYU on Nov. 3.
“We were super thin at the end of the year, just like most teams are, and I just wanted to be there any way I could,” Collingham said. “... The practices, to be honest, they didn’t feel very good on the shoulder. But I think just being able to know that I’m still going to be a part of the offense and being in the game, that definitely played a factor, just being there and being able to contribute.”
Collingham’s selflessness and toughness exemplify the tight end position at Boise State, where the big men play a major role in run blocking, including a string of 10 straight 1,000-yard rushers.
“I think those guys take pride in that,” tight ends coach Kent Riddle said. “They’re blue collar. They’re tough and they don’t complain. Everybody wants the ball, trust me. But they understand there’s only one of them, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to help us get better.”
Collingham, who had surgery in the offseason to repair his shoulder, is one of three returning tight ends who caught a pass for the Broncos last season. He totaled five receptions for 58 yards, with one receiving touchdown and one rushing TD. Coach Bryan Harsin rewarded Collingham with a scholarship this spring after he persevered through five position changes since walking on at Boise State in 2015.
“I just wish I would have found (the tight end position) sooner, but it’s been fun,” said Collingham, who also spent time at quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and punter. “I definitely feel at home here and comfortable.”
Redshirt junior John Bates (6-6, 255) is the most experienced of Boise State’s returning tight ends, with eight starts in 2018 and 13 career receptions for 189 yards and one score. Redshirt senior Matt Pistone (6-3, 246) played in 11 games last season primarily as a run blocker and has just one career reception for 4 yards.
“All the tight ends, we want to do anything possible we can do to help the offense,” Bates said. “But we also are trying to better ourselves — run game, pass game, weight room, just do whatever we can to help this team out as much as possible.”
Redshirt freshmen Cole Ramseyer (6-4, 231), Kaden DeLuna (6-5, 239) and Tyneil Hopper (6-2, 231), and true freshman walk-on Tyler Eiguren (6-3, 230), are trying to challenge the three veterans for time on the field.
“I feel good about where we’re at, and I feel good about those guys really understanding the culture here and how to work and what to do,” Riddle said. “They’re guys who will show up and study every day and take care of business on and off the field and ultimately produce.”
The question most years is exactly how involved in the passing game the Broncos’ tight ends will be. Collingham was the only tight end last season with more than one touchdown, but there have been years — Jake Roh’s 2017 season, for instance — in which a tight end becomes a go-to target in the red zone.
Bates could be that guy in 2019. He has been named to the John Mackey watch list — the award is given annually to the nation’s top tight end — each of the past two seasons, and Riddle feels confident that the Lebanon, Oregon, native will more than meet expectations.
“I think John Bates is ready for a breakout season,” Riddle said. “He’s ready to be one of the best tight ends around.”
Note: Five of the Broncos’ seven tight ends have Idaho ties. Collingham (Mountain View), Ramseyer (Coeur d’Alene), DeLuna (McCall) and Eiguren (Fruitland) all graduated from a Gem State high school. Bates went to school in Fruitland for several years.