BTN will celebrate its fifth anniversary later this month. The big day is Aug. 30, to be exact. As a way to celebrate – not to mention kill time before the 2012 season kicks off – I’m spotlighting some of the great football careers during our time on the air. I’ll do it in the mold of “Big Ten’s Best,” our popular countdown show that returns this fall for another season of ranking the best in Big Ten history. My third list ranks the top five tight ends of the last five seasons, aka the BTN era.
Editor’s note: This list only includes players who competed during the 2007-2011 seasons, and it ranks the best careers. As for players who only played one or two seasons during the five-year period (i.e. Mike Hart), their career totals are considered but don’t always carry as much weight as guys who amassed all of their numbers during the era. NFL success and pro potential have no impact.
1. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin – One of the best tight ends to come out of Wisconsin, unofficially Tight End U, Beckum compiled back-to-back 900-yard receiving seasons, the second coming in 2007, when he hauled in 75 passes for 982 yards and six touchdowns. Beckum was an absolute nightmare of a matchup, and it’s a shame injuries forced him to miss seven games in his final season.
BTN era stats: 98 rec., 1,246 yards, 6 TDs (2006-08 career stats: 159 rec., 2,149 yards, 11 TDs)
2. Dustin Keller, Purdue – Watching Keller at Purdue, it didn’t take long to realize he could have been a very good wide receiver, if needed. In his final two seasons, the former Boiler totaled 124 receptions, 1,652 yards and 11 touchdowns. He saved his best season for the 2007 campaign, when he teamed with Dorien Bryant to form one of the Big Ten’s top one-two receiving punches.
BTN era stats: 68 rec., 881 yards, 7 TD (2004-07 careers stats: 142 rec., 1,882 yards, 16 TDs)
3. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin – Graham did what all players aim to do during their careers: he improved in every statistical category in all three of his seasons. And it’s not like he set the bar low in his first season, either, with 30 receptions for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers jumped to 51, 624, 7 in his final season (2009). Most impressive, Graham did his work with the following quarterbacks: Tyler Donovan, Dustin Sherer/Allan Evridge and Scott Tolzien, the 2009 Tolzien.
BTN era stats: 121 rec., 1,492 yards, 16 TDs
4. Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern – Some will argue Dunsmore accumulated his stats as a result of the system he played in, but that’s not fair. The former Wildcat was a reliable, consistent and productive outlet for all three of his quarterbacks – C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka and Dan Persa. Also, Dunsmore, thanks in large part to a history-making four-touchdown game, won the inaugural Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year.
BTN era stats: 143 rec., 1,567 yards, 14 TDs
5. Tony Moeaki, Iowa – It’s tough to look at Moeaki’s career and not wonder what could have been if it weren’t for all of the injuries. An uberly talented target, Moeaki averaged only 8.4 games per season during his five years in Iowa City (he received a medical redshirt in 2007 after getting injured in Week 4). Still, Moeaki was clutch when he was on the field, hauling in 11 touchdowns on 76 career receptions. That’s the same number as Travis Beckum, only on 83 fewer receptions.
BTN era stats: 57 rec., 701 yards, 8 TDs (2005-09 career stats: 76 rec., 953 yards, 11 TDs)
Next five (in alphabetical order of school): Jeff Cumberland, Illinois; Kellen Davis, Michigan State; Charlie Gantt, Michigan State; Andrew Quarless, Penn State; Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
Who did I miss? Who would you have No. 1? Tweet me your thoughts (@BTNBrentYarina) or leave it as a comment below.