It’s time for another installment of the Heel Tough Blog’s offseason series. The series will place the top players in Tar Heel football history at each position group into five different tiers to determine their standings in Tar Heel history. The series will continue today by looking at the five tiers of Tar Heel tight ends.
Tier 1: Eric Ebron, Art Weiner
When it comes to the tight end position, many would say that one man stands alone. Eric Ebron is one of just two Tar Heel tight ends to reach to the 1,000 yard mark in his career, a mark he almost reached as a junior in 2013 (62 rec, 973 yds, 3 TD). Ebron’s 1,805 career receiving yards, the most among tight ends, ranks 13th in program history and his 112 receptions, again the most by a tight end, ranks 16th. Ebron would have cleared the 2,000 yard mark had he stayed for his senior season, but he instead chose to head to the NFL.
There is not just one member of the first tier, however. Art Weiner, a two time consesus All-American in 1948 and 1949 and a 1993 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, is the other Tar Heel tight end in the first tier and is the only other tight end to reach the 1,000 yard receiving mark in his career, as he racked up over 1,700 yards on 106 catches. Weiner’s records for a tight end would hold until Ebron’s arrival, while 18 career receiving touchdowns would rank first in school history all the way until 1997. That touchdown reception number still sits at sixth all-time in program history amongst receivers and tight ends and first amongst tight ends.
Tier 2: Alge Crumpler, Arnold Franklin, Tony Blanchard
A name that many Tar Heel fans will remember leads us off here in Tier 2. A three-time first team All-ACC member, Alge Crumpler will be remembered more for his ability as a blocker that anything else in Chapel Hill. His career receiving numbers are solid (68 rec, 760 yds, 5 TD), headlined by his sophomore season, 1997, where he finished with 24 receptions for 278 yards and four touchdowns.
We go from one of the Tar Heels top blocking tight ends to one of their top receiving tight ends. Arnold Franklin may not have been as highly recognized as Crumpler was, but he was a key part of the Tar Heels passing game from 1982 to 1985. In each of his four seasons on campus, Franklin caught at least ten passes for over 100 yards, the only Tar Heel tight end to accomplish that feat. Franklin finished his Tar Heel career with 78 receptions, which still ranks fourth among Tar Heel tight ends, for 861 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Another name that wasn’t as recognized as he probably should have been at the tight end position for the Tar Heels closes out the Tier 2 tight ends. Tony Blanchard was one the Tar Heels passing game targets from 1968 through 1970, never finishing any of his three seasons with less than 15 receptions or 275 yards receiving. His 932 yards were the most among modern tight ends in program history until 2013 and his 10 touchdowns is still tops in the modern era.
Tier 3: Paul Serevin, Charles Waddell, Zack Pianalto
Paul Severin, who leads this group off, is a name that you will see later on in this offseason series, the only player who will receive that special honor. Severin was effective both on offense and defense. His 15 receptions in 1941 were phenomonal for his time period, as were his five receiving touchdowns in 1940. Severin was a two-time first team All-American in 1939 and 1940, so you can see why he lands on the list. The fact that he is more remembered for his defensive career is the reason he slips into Tier 3.
Charles Waddell is the next member of the third tier. Waddell was a two year producer for the Tar Heels in 1973 and 1974. Waddell would finish both seasons with at least 18 catches, 200+ yards and exactly three touchdowns. Waddell was an first team All-ACC selection in 1973 and a first team All-American selection in 1974.
We head back to the modern era for the final member of Tier 3. Zack Pianalto was one of T.J. Yates top targets for most of his career, catching 20+ passes in three of his four seasons. Pianalto is third among Tar Heel tight ends with 94 career receptions and his 918 receiving yards rank fourth. Pianalto was only able to find the endzone three times in his career, a problem that wasn’t helped by his injury issues that only allowed him to play one full season.
Tier 4: Freddie Jones, Brooks Williams
Another Mack Brown-era tight end leads us off here in Tier 4. Freddie Jones had two seasons of production at Carolina, catching 48 passes for 470 yards and six touchdowns in 1995 and 1996. Jones’ slow start to his career is the only reason that he is not higher on this list.
The other member of this fourth tier may not have had mindblowing career statistics, but was a very consistent part of the Tar Heels mid-70’s offenses. Williams finished all three of his seasons on the field with at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. He would finish his career with 38 receptions for 473 yards and four touchdowns.
Tier 5: Richard Quinn, Deems May, Ryan Taylor
The fifth and final tier begins with arguably the best blocking tight end in Tar Heel history. Richard Quinn was a 2nd round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft almost solely for his ability as a blocker. He would finish his career with just 12 catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Deems May came to Carolina as a quarterback, but after a rough start to his career as a freshman, converted to tight end following the 1989. May caught 17 passes for 224 yards in his final two seasons on campus. May would develop into a solid blocker during that time, which did allow him to get drafted in the 1992 NFL Draft.
The final member of this list is third Butch Davis-era tight end. Ryan Taylor had a wild career in Chapel Hill, including a move in the 2008 season to linebacker before he would move back to tight end following a 2009 season that he missed due to a knee injury. Taylor would start the season as the backup to Zack Pianalto at tight end, but was forced into a starting role after an injury ended Pianalto’s season early. Taylor would respond by catching the most passes by a tight end in one season (36) for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor’s reception number still stand third best for a season behind Eric Ebron’s final two seasons.