Faysal Shafaat, the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga tight end who has a shot of hearing his name called in next month's NFL draft, had a skill set that none of the four possible replacements currently possess.
But it is a position that still will be expected to be productive.
Senior Troy Dye, junior Steve Pickren, sophomore Malcolm Colvin and redshirt freshman Bailey Lenoir have been vying for the opportunity to succeed the graduated two-time All-American, who was third on the team in catches (34) and yards (413) and second in receiving touchdowns (five) in 2014.
Pickren is a 6-foot-5, 255-pound transfer from Alabama-Birmingham who played defensive and offensive tackle during his two seasons before the UAB program was disbanded after the 2014 season.
UTC coach Russ Huesman said Monday that Colvin has been the guy the coaching staff has been "most pleased with," but said each tight end candidate has distinct strengths that could be vital once the season rolls around.
"Malcolm has really come along. He's been playing well, playing hard, and has made a nice commitment to being good," Huesman said. "Troy Dye has played a lot of football here, and we hope he continues to play well. Steve Pickren is trying to get in the swing of things, but he's going to bring a lot to the table as far as his run-blocking ability. Bailey Lenoir is a freshman who's very athletic. We hope he's going to be a great one someday, but when you're a freshman, it's hard."
Colvin said the group has looked at the spring as an opportunity to get better.
"We came in wanting to be the best we can be," he said. "As a group, we want to compete with ourselves but with other groups because that's how you become more accountable."
Lenoir looks like the best pass-catcher, while Colvin, Dye and Pickren are more run blockers. Dye is the most experienced of the returners, with six starts, 11 catches and a pair of touchdowns in his three-year career. They have the opportunity to be a solid group, but none currently present the deep threat that Shafaat was.
"We're going to have to use our wideouts to stretch the field," Huesman said. "Our tight ends are going to be run blockers and short-pass guys."
That's fine by Colvin, who admitted that he preferred to be physical and hit people at the line of scrimmage but said he'd "do what he has to do" in catching passes. The 6-2, 230-pounder did just that Saturday, catching a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alejandro Bennifield in the team's first scrimmage.
The spring has provided a time for improvements for the returning players. Tight end, along with the defensive line, is a position where the coaching staff is looking for players to step up and show they can contribute.
"We look pretty good right now," Colvin said. "Every day we've been progressing little by little, but that's what the spring is for -- to improve as a team.
"We're not where we want to be, but we're making progress."
Today's practice will be the Mocs' final of the week and eighth of the spring session.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.