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Top 5 TEs in the Big Ten for 2023 season

Who are the best of the best in a conference known for strong tight end play?

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU
Michigan’s Colston Loveland beats a linebacker in the College Football Playoff vs. TCU
Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Today, we’re continuing our series ranking the top five players at each position in the Big Ten Conference for the 2023 season. The conference has been home to a number of incredible tight ends over the last few seasons. With many of the Big Ten’s top tight ends in 2022 heading to the NFL, this year we could see new faces emerge and established players have breakout seasons.

Here are our top five tight ends for the upcoming season.

5. Colston Loveland, Michigan

With Luke Schoonmaker off to the NFL and Erick All transferring to Iowa, Loveland will become the top option at tight end for Michigan this year. Last season as a true freshman, he caught 16 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He shined at the end of the year, with a 45-yard touchdown against Ohio State, a touchdown a week later in the Big Ten Championship against Purdue, and catching a career-high four passes against TCU.

Under Sherrone Moore, Loveland will be an important part of the receiving group, but he’ll also get significant snaps as a blocker, especially because of their strength in the run game.

4. Theo Johnson, Penn State

Theo Johnson caught 20 passes last season for 328 yards and four touchdowns last year, the latter stat being tied for fourth in the Big Ten among tight ends. Johnson split time with Brenton Strange, who was an All-Big Ten third team player last year. This season, Johnson will be Penn State’s No. 1 tight end — noticing a trend yet?

With Penn State losing Strange and Mitchell Tinsley, two of their top four pass catchers last year, Johnson will have the opportunity to step into an even bigger pass catching role for the Nittany Lions in 2023.

3. Luke Lachey, Iowa

It seems like Iowa has elite tight ends every season, and Luke Lachey is looking to step into those big shoes.

In 2022, Lachey caught 28 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns as the secondary option behind second-round draft pick Sam LaPorta. Lachey was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention last year. He will likely split targets with Michigan transfer Erick All, but with former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara aiming to open up the offense, both players could put up strong receiving numbers.

2. Cade Stover, Ohio State

In 2022, Cade Stover had the best receiving season by a Buckeye tight end in 28 years, catching 36 passes for 406 yards, and his five touchdowns were the most by an Ohio State tight end in 11 years. Stover earned third-team All-Big Ten honors and chose to return to Columbus after suffering a hairline fracture in his back early in the College Football Playoff matchup against Georgia.

Last year was Stover’s first full season at tight end, after starting his career on defense. This year, he should be one the best pass catching weapons for the Buckeye’s new starting quarterback, whether that be Kyle McCord or Devin Brown.

1. Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota

Brevyn Spann-Ford is absolutely massive at 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, making him a tough matchup for any defensive player whether he’s blocking or catching passes.

Spann-Ford led Minnesota in receptions with 42, and was second on the team in receiving yards with 497, and touchdowns with two in 2022. His 42 catches for 497 yards leads all returning Big Ten tight ends, and Spann-Ford was also very consistent with at least two catches in all but one game last season.

He will also be playing with a new quarterback next season, with Athan Kaliakmanis expected to start in 2023. PFF College Football ranked Spann-Ford as the No. 2 returning tight end in all of college football, behind Georgia’s Brock Bowers. His skill as both a blocker and pass catcher puts him at the top spot in the conference.