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UC Davis Football 2019 Preseason Preview: Tight Ends

DAVIS, Calif. — Simply put, UC Davis senior standout Wes Preece will always hold a special place in the heart of assistant football coach Paul Creighton.

Of course, on paper, such a statement seems comically obvious, since Preece has on his resume two All-Big Sky Conference nods, 73 career receptions, nine touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, and his share of the four-man team captainship. Additionally, Creighton says Preece is “as talented as any tight end I’ve been around as a coach at any level.” That’s high praise from a veteran mentor who served on staffs at Colorado and Auburn. 

So yes, Creighton certainly appreciates the quality of play he gets from No. 87 on the field. However, it goes beyond that: Creighton is the lone member of the current staff who served for the Aggies during the 2015-16 school year, when he also held the title of recruiting coordinator. 

“Very few coaches get to recruit a kid then see him through his senior year,” says Creighton. “I’m just really thankful for that opportunity.”

Furthermore, Preece and fullback/tight end Christian Skeptaris – another member of that 2016 recruiting class – provide added value as de facto coaches. With Creighton serving double duty of guiding the tight ends and special teams position groups, having that extra experience in camp proves crucial, particularly at a position with so many newcomers. Marqel McCoy switched from the defensive backfield to tight end this year, while Pat Miller has gone from linebacker to the slot. 

Additionally, the Aggies have two gifted true freshmen, both of whom Creighton dubbed “the future of the position.” Blake Thorpe totaled 1,013 yards and 17 touchdowns for a Las Lomas High team that outscored opponents 586-74 last year, while Evan Bearden earned Mother Lode MVP in helping Sonora High to its sixth consecutive conference title.

“If Blake Thorpe has a question, he’ll Facetime Wes,” said Creighton, again citing his senior’s leadership role. “In a way, Wes and Christian can probably explain it better than I can because they’re the ones executing. That part is unbelievable.”

Two more intriguing additions are Garren O’Keefe, a 2018 redshirt who reported to camp with 25 solid pounds added to his frame. Meanwhile, Santa Rosa College transfer Matt Hyman has proven to be the fastest member of the group, according to Creighton – a scary thought to opponents when you consider Hyman’s 6-foot-5, 240-pound stature. 

The Aggie tight ends are so deep that the biggest concern is not having enough opportunities for everyone to play. “Coach Hawk says, on a good team, someone will get screwed a little bit. It’s one of those things,” said Creighton. “There are not enough reps to go around to the guys who deserve to play.” 

UC Davis begins its Big Sky Conference title defense at California on August 31.

Note: this Part 6 in a series previewing each UC Davis position group, leading up to the week of the August 31 opener at Cal.