One year after landing former Iowa running back Marcus Coker, Stony Brook's football program landed another big fish last winter when 6-3, 255-pound tight end Will Tye transferred from Florida State. After a quiet start, Tye is emerging as a go-to guy just in time for what figures to be a make-or-break game against 20th-ranked New Hampshire at 4 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium.
The Wildcats (3-3, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) are a game ahead of the Seawolves (3-3, 1-2) in the conference standings and have the same overall record, and both teams have only 11 games in which to reach the seven-win plateau required to earn an FCS playoff berth. UNH upset Villanova, 29-28, last week on a two-point conversion with 13 seconds left to maintain its hopes of a 10th straight FCS playoff berth.
Stony Brook is coming off a bye after winning its second straight game the previous week at Colgate, where Tye had a breakout game with eight catches for 70 yards. "It boosted my confidence up tremendously," Tye said. "I was happy about it. The players and coaches were happy. I'm ready to build on that . . . It was a slow start. People kind of realized, 'OK, we're going to give him the ball more. He can make plays.' "
Tye credited SBU veteran tight end Tanner Nehls with helping him grow more comfortable in the offense to the point where he now is the Seawolves' second-leading receiver with 24 catches for 228 yards. But with Tye's combination of size and unusual speed for a big man, it seems he's only scratched the surface of his potential.
"He's an added dimension for defenses to defend," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. "He's got the ability to play in space and to block people. I've been real pleased with his progress, and certainly, I think the second half is going to be good for him. He's as athletic as any receiver that plays in this league, I can tell you that."
In two seasons at Florida State, Tye was lightly used, playing in a total of eight games and making only one reception for 7 yards. He was buried behind current starter Nick O'Leary and Penn State transfer Kevin Haplea.
"Going there was definitely a good experience," Tye said. "I met some good guys and got to play against the top talent, a few guys who are in the NFL right now. Yeah, I played a few games, but not much happened. I felt I deserved to play, so I had to make a move."
Tye said former high school teammate Pat D'Amato, who is a backup quarterback for the Seawolves, put in a good word with the coaching staff that paved the way for his transfer. "It's different, but definitely a good move," Tye said. "I'm happy with it."
With a night off last Saturday, Tye watched his buddies at Florida State win a battle of unbeatens at Clemson. He recalled practicing last season with quarterback Jameis Winston, who was a redshirt but now is a Heisman Trophy candidate.
"I was on the scout team maybe for two weeks, and me and him were connecting every time," Tye said of Winston. "I'm not as surprised as other people are with him. He always had it."
After the game, Tye texted O'Leary to kid him about getting caught from behind on one reception. "Nick O'Leary texted me and said, 'Yeah, I got caught,' " Tye said with a smile. "I said, 'I would have scored.' He said, 'I know.' We still have our connection."
Tye has yet to score for Stony Brook, but he'll have an opportunity to change that against a New Hampshire team that averages 36.2 points per game but gives up 28.7. "It's a big possibility it could be a shootout because their offense is pretty good," Tye said. "I feel our offense can definitely put points up on the board this game."