Texas A&M sophomore tight end Glenn Beal is front and center with highly touted true freshman Baylor Cupp out of the picture with a broken left ankle.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Beal is the only returning tight end with experience, giving him an advantage over true freshman Jalen Wydermyer and sophomore Camron Horry, the others vying for playing time in head coach Jimbo Fisher’s versatile pro-style offense.
In 2017, A&M tight ends caught only seven passes for 65 yards with no touchdowns. That was typical production under former coach Kevin Sumlin, a spread-oriented offensive coach who used a four wide receiver set as his base attack with a need for tight ends only in short-yardage situations.
That changed drastically under Fisher, who utilizes tight ends and fullbacks in his multiple attack. Tight ends caught 51 passes for 857 yards and 10 touchdowns last season as All-American Jace Sternberger had all but three of the receptions. He got support from Trevor Wood, a graduate transfer from Arizona, who played in all 13 games, starting six, and Beal, who as a true freshman played in eight games.
Sternberger declared for the NFL Draft and left a year early, but A&M was hopeful not to have a drop off at the position with the 6-6, 245-pound Cupp, the highest-ranked tight end in the class of 2019 by 247sports.com, complementing an improved Beal, with Wydermyer and Horry adding depth.
Cupp, who had 20 catches for 492 yards and six touchdowns in his senior season at Brock High School, would be a deep threat in the middle. Beal, who is more known for his blocking, didn’t record a catch last season but was able to hone his pass-catching skills working with Sternberger.
“I kind of shadowed him, sat behind him, and saw what he did,” Beal said Sunday at media day. “He taught me a lot in the passing game, so he played a big part in that.”
Wood also was helpful in Beal’s development.
“Trevor, he taught me the run schemes,” Beal said. “They both had a big role in what I am today, right now.”
Wood had only two catches for 17 yards last season, but his blocking and technique were good enough to earn him a free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played Wood in their 30-28 exhibition victory over Tampa Bay last week.
Beal wasn’t much of an offensive threat at John Curtis High School in New Orleans, making 14 catches for 259 yards and two scores, but because of his physicality and potential, he was highly sought by Southeastern Conference schools. The consensus three-star recruit visited Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee, also getting offers from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State.
“I chose A&M because it is a special place,” Beal said. “Everybody from Louisiana always wants to go to LSU. But I felt like this was my home; this was the place to be. I love the coaching staff here, I love the people here. I love the tradition here, it just felt like it was home.”
Beal has worked hard to be in position to earn more snaps.
“My goal is to be a better version of me, help the offense out any way [I can],” Beal said. “Just playing my role, that’s what it’s all about, just playing a role. Everybody has their job. If everybody does his job, we’ll be successful.”
Beal catches passes before and after practices to improve as a threat in the passing game.
“I’m just developing every day,” he said.
Beal said he also lost five pounds since last season, making him quicker and faster.
“I take every snap like it’s my last snap,” Beal said. “I’m just out there competing, grinding. There’s nothing else to ask for. I want that at the end of the day. That’s what it’s all about, competing.”
Beal said the tight ends are a tight-knit group with plenty of teaching taking place under first-year assistant Joe Jon Finley.
“I teach them, and I [also] learn something new every day,” Beal said. “We just sit with each other in a room and learn, then we go out and compete.”
Beal doesn’t consider himself just a blocking tight end.
“At the end of the day, I think I can do both parts in the passing and running game,” Beal said.
The soft-spoken Beal’s best day as an Aggie was last season’s 74-72 seven-overtime victory over LSU, though he didn’t brag to his former high school buddies when he went home.
“I stayed real quiet,” Beal said. “We worked really hard at practice [for that victory]. As you see, that’s the results from working hard, you get a victory.
NOTES — Wydermyer, who didn’t have the luxury of going through spring drills like Cupp did, has been having a good fall camp. Horry was recruited to A&M as a tight end. He redshirted in 2017, then was moved to defensive end following spring drills last season because A&M had great depth at tight end after adding Sternberger and Wood. Horry, who played in one game last season, recently returned to tight end and played well in Monday’s scrimmage, Fisher said. … A&M’s walk-on tight ends include junior Ryan Renick, who played at Iola. Renick is the only player in the unit with a reception in college, an 8-yard effort against Northwestern State last season. He also had a 10-yard kickoff return against Arkansas, as he played in 10 games. Renick walked on at Kansas, redshirting in 2016. He didn’t see action in ’17 before transferring to A&M. Renick, whose rehabilitation from an injury is going better than expected according to an A&M official, was at practice Wednesday but not in full pads as he’s going through the NCAA’s mandatory five-day acclimatization period. … Retired A&M football coach R.C. Slocum, who is a special adviser to A&M president Michael K. Young, was the keynote speaker Friday as Milam County rivals Rockdale and Cameron had a sportsmanship banquet, which will become an annual event. Slocum, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, talked about how he handled sportsmanship during the A&M-Texas rivalry. Slocum also is a part-time rancher, owning 330 acres in Milam County.