Returning starters: Charlie Mangieri (Gr.), Marshall Lang (Jr.)
Key losses: Trey Pugh (Graduated)
Returners: Hunter Welcing (Jr.), Lawson Albright (So.), Thomas Gordon (Jr.)
Newcomers: Chris Petrucci (Fy.), Blake Van Buren (Fy.)
Among the many problems concerning 2021 Northwestern football’s stagnant offense, tight end contributions were one of the few bright spots. Marshall Lang and now-graduated Trey Pugh combined for five touchdowns, one more than the receiving duo of Malik Washington and Stephon Robinson Jr. during their 2021 campaign.
Lang and Pugh along with veteran Charlie Mangieri put together 27 receptions for a total of 170 yards — sure, that doesn’t really sound like that much, but when it came to scoring production, the TE core was one of the most reliable options for the QB rotation.
Thankfully, everyone but Pugh will return for the 2022 carousel. Along with newcomers early enrollee Chris Petrucci and walk-on Blake Van Buren, the mix of veteran and newfound leadership between Mangieri and Lang could provide some much-needed consistency to bridge Bajakian’s 2021 and 2022 offenses among many of the changes he’s likely making.
The 6 foot 4 junior from Cincinnati found success last season, pulling in TD receptions against Duke, Rutgers and Purdue — the latter two in front of sizeable home crowds, all of whom began to learn Lang’s name. Appearing in all 12 games and starting six, Lang provided a reliable, short-range option for whoever was at the helm. This made him a prime candidate to receive darts in the end zone for a quick score.
That being said, Lang does have the agility to make bigger-scale plays as well, his longest play in 2021 a 20-yard reception. With Mangieri on the way out following this season, Lang has the unique opportunity to work with the veteran leader one last time, all while bonding and mentoring his young teammates in anticipation of his role in the future. Lang should be a consistent option on offense once again, and it’s safe to say expectations for him are high.
Who will rise as a reliable third option?
Last year, the trio of Lang, Mangieri and Pugh was relatively consistent, so few other tight ends broke into the mix. With Pugh gone, someone will have to rise as the third cog in Bajakian’s TE rotation. The likely candidate is Thomas Gordon, a junior who appeared in the most contests behind the front trio, albeit with minimal stats to show. With the most experience among the remaining non-starters, Gordon will likely see playing time in the early goings of the season so we can see a little bit more of what he’s made of, hopefully among showings of newcomers with potential as well.
2022 Projected tight end depth chart
|First string||Charlie Mangieri|
|Second string||Marshall Lang|
|Third string||Thomas Gordon|