Jeff Banks simultaneously has the cushiest and most daunting job in college football right now.
With the announced grad transfer of senior Jordan Davis, Texas A&M technically has no experienced scholarship tight ends on the roster.
On the plus side, Banks — the Aggies’ special teams coordinator and tight ends coach — won’t be inundated with over-sized expectations among tight ends this fall. As such, he’ll probably enjoy the unique experience of molding precocious young minds from scratch without pretense.
On the down side, Banks will undoubtedly work overtime to develop the current lot of tight ends for A&M’s tough opener against UCLA on Sept. 3. We’re talking about 40-plus snaps for a group that might not be immediately ready for big-boy football.
Of course, the entrenched Texas A&M fan would point to Davis catching only two balls last season (read: not a devastating loss). They might also surmise that, given the Aggies’ explosive playmaking talent at wide receiver, the starting tight end will likely be a blocking-first asset between the 20s.
In other words, it’s not as if tight end will make or break Texas A&M’s 2016 run at the SEC West title.
That burden falls to the likes of defensive end Myles Garrett (possibly the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft), defensive end Daeshon Hall, Reynolds (11 catches, 177 yards in the Music City Bowl), Kirk (1,000-yard receiver as a freshman), head coach Kevin Sumlin and whoever wins the starting nod at quarterback — either Jake Hubenak or Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight.
There are some quick fixes to the A&M quandary, though:
1) Hire former NFL passing guru Mike Martz as an offensive consultant.
While directing the Rams, Lions, Bears and 49ers offenses, “Mad Mike” had a robust reputation for scoring beaucoup points and racking up monster passing yards through the dual process of minimizing tight ends and implementing four- and five-receiver sets at the pro level.
This subsequently led to the lack of max protection for the quarterback, but there would be few worries here. Texas A&M has stealthily become the NFL’s go-to hub for blue-chip offensive line prospects, including Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews, Cedric Ogbuehi and Germain Ifedi.
2) When perusing the backups on the active roster, convert the undersized offensive or defensive linemen into tight ends.
It’s not uncommon for prep stars to convert to new positions at the college level as a means of adjusting to their ever-changing physiques.
So, why not dip into the pool of deceptively quick linemen who aren’t killing it in the food line of the football training table?
3) Look to the A&M basketball team — varsity or intramural — for inspiration.
The next Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham, both college basketball players, may already be on the College Station campus.
As such, it might be worth Coach Banks’ time to hang out at various campus hardwoods during the offseason, in search of a hoops talent — at 6-foot-4 or taller — who runs the floor well, catches the ball in transition, blocks out defenders for rebounds and has a knack for being comfortable within a mass of similarly large bodies.
Maybe someone at A&M could even develop an app for finding athletically gifted, non-scholarship gems on campus.
If it works in the dating realm, then why can’t this be a thing for prospect hunting, as well?
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.