Position Preview: Tight Ends

Aug. 24, 2017

UC Davis, a school ranked No. 21 among all public colleges in the nation by Forbes for the highest earning graduates, is also the top ranked UC school in alumni earnings above expectations.

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By: Christy Effendie
Athletics Communications Assistant

At the end of spring ball, assistant coach Paul Creighton's group of tight ends were young, talented, and willing to do whatever it took to help reach their individual (and collective) potential. Comprised mainly of underclassmen, this group enters next Saturday's game at San Diego State with a deeper understanding of the amount of time, effort, energy and sacrifice needed to perfect their craft thanks to their veteran teammate, Derek Baljeu

Baljeu, now a graduate student in UC Davis' Viticulture and Enology Master's Program -- one of the top programs in the world -- previously earned All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention at the fullback position. However, with the implementation of the team's new offense, his six-foot, 240-pound frame helped him earn reps this season as one of the team's tight ends.

Coach Creighton calls him the "team-captain type" and noticed that he wasted no time sharing his experiences with other teammates. 

"He's given them an example of what a senior looks like in terms of preparing for competition, which includes the little things like helping players take care of their body." Added Creighton, "he's also a really talented, so those guys look up to him."

Other teammates soaking up as much wisdom as possible include sophomores Wesley Preece and Dan Plum, redshirt freshman Christian Skeptaris and true freshman Joey Berzins.

Preece, who played last season as a true freshman, saw action in all 11 games and earned four starts. 

"He's a little bit of a perfectionist, which leads to him becoming frustrated at times. However, he's very talented," said Creighton.

Also with a year of experience is Plum, who competed in every game last season. Creighton calls him "arguably the best special teams player," and anticipates a solid return to form once action is underway.

Eyeing an opportunity to prove themselves this season are Skeptaris and Berzins. Skeptaris, who redshirted last season, was named Chaparral High School's offensive MVP as a senior; in his final year at Campolindo High School, Berzins led his team to a CIF State Division II title and earned NorCal Top Tight End Class of 2017 honors.

Creighton cites the potential to become a well-rounded part of the team's offensive plans -- the run and pass game, in addition to its pass protection -- as the group's key to success this season.

"We are talented enough, in my opinion, to play this position well. Ultimately, it will all come down to how quickly those guys are able to play at full speed."

By attending the sixth-ranked public school in the nation, learning things fast and implementing them accordingly are talents every UC Davis student-athlete quickly master.

Thanks to the Baljeu's work ethic, wisdom and ability to lead by example, this position group is ready to make a significant, and immediate impact throughout the 2017 campaign.