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Senior tight ends Trent Cowan, Deon Watson give Vandals great options in passing game

Senior tight end Trent Cowan is always a threat with the ball, but has also beefed up to improve his run blocking ability. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Senior tight end Trent Cowan is always a threat with the ball, but has also beefed up to improve his run blocking ability. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

MOSCOW – Trent “Buck” Cowan was one of the most productive tight ends in the FBS last year. Not far behind him was his teammate, Deon Watson.

Cowan and Watson came to Idaho as wide receivers with Idaho pedigrees and made the switch to a hybrid tight end role in spring 2015. Now, they’re poised for huge senior seasons for an offense loaded with receiving options.

“When Coach (Paul Petrino) had Deon and Trent become hybrid receiver/tight end guys, that like doubled our depth right away,” offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich said. “And then those guys are on the field all the time. They’re both really good players. Really good, accomplished players.”

Cowan had the fourth-most receiving yards among FBS tight ends last year (624 on 48 catches) and was named to the preseason watch list for the Mackay Award, given to the nation’s best tight end.

QB Matt Linehan, his roommate for several years, calls him the hardest-working player on the team. That shows in the time he’s spent in the weight room. The 6-foot-3 Camas, Washington, product is up to 230 pounds after playing at 220 last season. (He weighed 205 to 210 in his first two years as a receiver).

One reason for bulking up was to help improve his run blocking, something he noticed was improved during preseason camp.

“He really pretty much does everything right,” Linehan said of Cowan. “There’s not a whole lot of negative. To see him have to transition from receiver to tight end, having to gain all the weight, he was very committed to that.”

Watson, a fifth-year senior from Coeur d’Alene, has used his athleticism and basketball player’s frame (6-4, 221) to contribute since he was a redshirt freshman in 2013. Last year, he caught 42 passes for 551 yards and led UI with seven receiving TDs.

One more year of he and Cowan on the field at the same time is an enticing prospect for UI players and coaches.

“Deon’s a great player,” Cowan said. “He’s going to cause a bunch of mismatches. And if they go heavy to him, we can go back to me and a bunch of other wide receivers or vice versa.”


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