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August 15, 2008

Wisconsin's Beckum tops tight end rankings

More Power Rankings: Ohio State's Wells leads RBs | Crabtree headlines WR group

The Big 12 is garnering plenty of preseason attention for its lineup of quality quarterbacks, but the conference also boasts the nation's top tight ends.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew, Missouri's Chase Coffman and Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham give the Big 12 three of the top four tight ends in the Rivals.com Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top players and coaches at each position.

The Big 12 dominates the upper tier of the tight end rankings, but it doesn't have a representative at the top spot. That space is reserved for Wisconsin's Travis Beckum, who has compiled at least 900 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons.

College programs in the middle of the country apparently love to emphasize the tight end: A Big Ten guy atop the rankings, three Big 12 players are right behind him and the Mid-American Conference features four representatives on our list.

We're introducing our preseason power rankings on a position-by-position basis. We'll continue Sunday with the introduction of our offensive lineman rankings.

The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.

1. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin, Sr.
The Buzz: Beckum had the most receiving yards (982) and the second-most catches (75) of any tight end in the nation last season. His 75 catches matched the school single-season record for any player.
2. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State, Sr.
The Buzz: Other tight ends in Pettigrew's conference caught more passes or scored more touchdowns, but perhaps no tight end in the nation has greater NFL potential.
3. Chase Coffman, Missouri, Sr.
The Buzz: Coffman already owns a school record with 20 career touchdown catches. He also won the 2007 "Hammer Award," given annually to the Missouri player who delivers the most big blocks.
4. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, Jr.
The Buzz: Eleven of his 37 catches last season resulted in touchdowns, which helped Gresham set a school single-season record for touchdown receptions by a tight end.
5. Bear Pascoe, Fresno State, Sr.
The Buzz: Can this WAC tight end get it done against major-conference foes? Ask Texas A&M. Pascoe scored three touchdowns last season in a triple-overtime loss to the Aggies.
6. Darius Hill, Ball State, Sr.
The Buzz: Hill already has tied a school record with 24 career touchdown catches. Hill had 93 receiving yards against Nebraska last season and caught nine passes against Rutgers in the International Bowl.
7. Dennis Pitta, BYU, Jr.
The Buzz: Pitta had two 100-yard games last season on the way to finishing his first season as a starter with 59 catches for 813 yards.
8. Cody Slate, Marshall, Jr.
The Buzz: Slate averaged 5.5 catches per game last year, which ranked behind only Beckum and former Missouri star Martin Rucker among tight ends across the nation.
9. Ryan Purvis, Boston College, Sr.
The Buzz: Purvis caught 54 passes for 553 yards and four touchdowns last season to earn first-team All-ACC honors. Can he match that production now that Matt Ryan is gone?
10. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, Soph.
The Buzz: Gronkowski caught six touchdown passes including three in his last four games a year ago on his way to earning Freshman All-America honors from Rivals.com.
11. Richard Dickson, LSU, Jr.
The Buzz: Dickson capped a solid 2007 campaign by catching two touchdown passes in the BCS Championship Game victory over Ohio State.
12. Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss, Sr.
The Buzz: Nelson is nothing if not consistent. He has caught between 33 and 36 passes each of his three seasons with the Golden Eagles.
13. Ed Dickson, Oregon, Jr.
The Buzz: After performing double duty as a tight end and defensive lineman earlier in his career, Dickson has found a home on offense. His 43 catches last season represented the highest single-season total by a tight end in school history.
14. Tony Moeaki, Iowa, Jr.
The Buzz: Moeaki scored three touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' first three games last year before suffering season-ending injuries to his elbow and hand.
15. Branden Ledbetter, Western Michigan, Sr.
The Buzz: Ledbetter already has the most career touchdowns (14) for a tight end in school history. He broke the record previously held by current Western Michigan tight ends coach Jake Moreland.
16. Aaron Hernandez, Florida, Soph.
The Buzz: The season-ending injury to Cornelius Ingram clears the way for Hernandez to make the leap to stardom in his sophomore season.
17. Justin Akers, Baylor, Jr.
The Buzz: Akers doesn't get as much attention as he should. He caught 43 passes last season, including a nine-reception game against Texas.
18. Andrew Mooney, Ohio, Sr.
The Buzz: This New Mexico State transfer led the Bobcats last season in receptions (34), receiving yards (498) and touchdown catches (nine). His nine touchdown receptions set an Ohio single-season record.
19. Anthony Hill, North Carolina State, Sr.
The Buzz: Hill finished the 2006 season with 45 catches 15 more than any of his teammates before a knee injury prevented him from playing last season.
20. Mark Hafner, Houston, Sr.
The Buzz: Hafner's six-catch, 128-yard game against Marshall represented the first 100-yard performance by a Houston tight end since 1984. He is the Cougars' leading returning receiver (40 catches).
21. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin, Jr.
The Buzz: Beckum isn't the only Wisconsin tight end who can deliver big plays. Graham made 10 starts last year and closed the season by catching seven passes for 75 yards in the Outback Bowl.
22. Jared Cook, South Carolina, Jr.
The Buzz: Cook displays the pass-catching ability you'd expect from a converted wide receiver. Cook ranked second on the team last season with 321 receiving yards and averaged 14 yards per catch.
23. James Casey, Rice, Soph.
The Buzz: After working out at defensive end in the spring of 2007, this former minor-league pitcher started using his athleticism on offense. He caught 46 passes for 585 yards last season to rank second on the team in both categories.
24. Steve Brouse, Connecticut, Sr.
The Buzz: This fifth-year senior scored the first four touchdowns of his career last season. Brouse is entering his third season as a starter and had 26 receptions last season.
25. D.J. Williams, Arkansas, Soph.
The Buzz: New Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino loves to feature the tight end, which should allow Williams to have a breakthrough season. Williams caught nine passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Razorbacks' spring game after finishing last season with five receptions.

More Power Rankings: Ohio State's Wells leads RBs | Crabtree headlines WR group

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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