Last year, Kansas State was supposed to feature a 1-2 punch at tight end with Travis Tannahill and Andre McDonald.
But then McDonald found himself amidst legal troubles, forcing him to miss action on the field and play in just nine of 13 games.
The Wildcats still enjoyed a productive season from Tannahill, and backup Zach Trujillo hauled in two passes for 72 yards. A year later, K-State is hoping he and McDonald can be that 1-2 punch.
Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said he likes what both players have to offer.
“Andre McDonald — huge upside — saw what he could do in the spring game,” he said. “Has the ability to catch the ball and be a big guy and hard guy to tackle, and he can be a dominant run blocker as well. Zach Trujillo, who played some last year and played well, he’s been in our system and he’s super knowledgeable. He’s a lot like Travis Tannahill.
“There’s not a part that Travis had, that Zach didn’t have. Zach might have more, he just hasn’t done it yet on the field.”
With the differences in their games, Dimel said they could provide the 1-2 punch the team looked for a year ago.
“They will feed off of each other, and we’re going to make sure everyone is working toward their strengths,” he said. “Between the two of them they give us a lot.”
McDonald had 14 catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns in his career, and has often shown the possibility of being a playmaker by using his size and strength.
But he admits he has to keep himself out of trouble going forward.
“I’m just staying out of trouble, and I keep practicing hard just like I have been in the offseason,” he said. “I’ve had just a little dry spell — everyone runs into their down times. I’ve got to stay positive and keep working with my coaches and the rest of the team. The guys stuck behind me and I’m glad to be with them. They keep me lifted up in the down.”
McDonald said it didn’t take any extra work to prove to his teammates he was still committed to the hard work necessary to be successful. He called his teammates supportive and understanding.
If Trujillo can be as much like Tannahill as Dimel thinks he can, the pair would have many chances to find success on an offense as open as it has been in years.
Trujillo said he’s prepared to step up and take the role Tannahill, who caught 23 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown last season, left open.
“I think Tannahill was a great player — he was solid, did everything the right way,” he said. “As long as me and the other tight ends get better each day — a lot of us have been here a few years and we’ve had a chance to learn the offense — I think we can fill that role.”
Trujillo described his game as versatile, being able to come out of the backfield, coming off the line, or even spreading out wide.
Some of the other tight ends are pretty versatile too. Dimel said Zack Nemechek is a player that could play tight end or full back for the Wildcats, and Cody Small adds a great deal of depth as well.
Dimel said going forward, the game is evolving to a point where tight ends and full backs will always have to be much more versatile than they have in the past.
“That’s where the game is going, and especially with what we do,” he said. “We move guys around so much and take different angles and have a quarterback with the ability to run the football. Using that and building the play-action off of that, that’s where those guys really help you.”