I had a chance to speak with San Jose State Tight End Ryan Otten. We discussed his offseason difficulties and where he is now, his development as a tight end, and where he feels like he stacks in this draft class.
Peter Smith: How did you end up at San Jose State?
Ryan Otten: I wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school. I only had a couple of offers. San Jose and the Air Force Academy were my only Division I offers. I decided to I stay in California and went to San Jose.
PS: Break Down your game for people who are not familiar with you
RO: My biggest strength is probably my versatility. I line up all over the field. I line up inline, in the slot, in the backfield, or at wing, or even all the way out wide sometimes. I can do a lot of things in the passing game. I can create mismatches, run down the field and make plays. And I can block at all of those different positions as well, so I think I am a versatile player that can do all kinds of things and help teams win.
PS: Talk about what you have gone through this offseason that resulted in the 230lb listing at the combine.
RO: That’s just because I was getting over being sick with the staph infection, so my weight was down. We had Pro Day 2 and a half weeks after the combine and my weight was back up to 242. I’m up to about 245lbs now. I went down to the Senior Bowl and got real sick and ended up getting a staph infection and I had to go into the hospital every day for two weeks and get IV antibiotics which had me lose a bunch of weight. It’s frustrating but it is something I had to battle through and get back to 100%. I had to work harder than some people but it may help me out in the end.
PS: Do you feel like you’re back to 100% now? Where would you like your weight to end up?
RO: I feel 100% right now and anywhere between 245-250lbs going into my new team will probably be a good starting point for me.
PS: With recovering from staph and everything you have gone through, what have you been able to do this offseason to prepare for the draft?
RO: I’ve been able to do everything. Even when I was on my IV’s, I was still trying to work out. It was just hard because the antibiotic I was on would break down my muscles and just kill everything I was putting in my stomach basically. A lot of food and supplements I was taking weren’t really sticking. When I got off, I recovered pretty fast. I went to the combine basically right after I got off of them, so that’s why I didn’t participate in anything except the position drills. Since I got back from the combine, I’ve just been working out really hard and have been able to do everything fine. I’m 100% and feeling really good right now.
PS: You trained with Jackie Slater, J.R. Tolver, and former NFL assistant coach Ted Tollner. Did you know who Jackie Slater was when you met him? And talk about the coaching you got from those guys.
RO: I knew who both of those guys were going into it. Jackie’s one of the greatest offensive lineman of all time. Hall of Famer and played forever; 20 years or something; 22 years. Working with those guys and also Coach Tollner was working with us a lot too. So working with those guys, I think really helped a lot; polished my game up and it was all good stuff. Especially, since the biggest area of my game I think I need to improve is my inline blocking and so Jackie helped me a lot with my footwork, technique, angles, and stuff I need to think about in order to be successful at blocking against guys who are a lot bigger in the NFL.
PS: From an outsider’s view, it looked like you had a good foundation when it come s to understanding blocking techniques and angles on the field this year. Do you have a background as an offensive lineman or where did you learn how to block?
RO: Actually quite the opposite; going through high school, I was real light, I was more of a receiver type that moved down to tight end. It’s one of those things where through most of my college career, I was lighter than most of the guys I was blocking against, so I had to be a technician in order to be successful. To beat people off the ball, to get the right angles, and the right hand placement in order to have a chance that are bigger and stronger that I was at the time. The guy who helped me this past year, his name’s Clayton Adams, and he actually played center at Boise State, so he helped me a lot in that area and getting better with all of that stuff.
PS: How did it feel to be the first tight end invited to the Senior Bowl and one of the earliest invites overall? You received a spot light early on and many people still were not aware of who you were and almost had an attitude of “Who is this guy?”. What was your attitude when you got that spotlight?
RO: I was excited about it, because like you said, a lot of people have that attitude. I feel like there’s kind of an East Coast bias a little bit. We don’t get a lot of people out here on the West Coast sometimes and especially at a smaller school like I was at, San Jose State. A lot people maybe didn’t pay too much attention to me, so I was excited they offered to me early and wanted to go down and show that I deserved it. Unfortunately, I was sick as a dog the whole time down there, so I wasn’t 100% and couldn’t do as well as I had hoped, but I went down there and battled, doing the best I could and I think I helped myself. I was excited to show people who I was.
PS: You had the flu, right?
RO: Yeah, I got the flu right when I got there just from travelling down there. There were actually about three or four other guys who got the flu down there as well. And some of them were sitting out of practice and stuff where I was trying to battle through the practices anyway.
PS: You talked about trying to show you belonged. Was that the only goal you had down at Mobile or was there something else you were trying to prove to people? Outside of your health, how do you feel like it went as far as talking to coaches and the exposure you got talking to teams.
RO: I thought it went well. I got to talk to everybody and I feel like, when it’s all said and done, I’m going to be the best tight end that comes out of this draft. That’s the attitude that I have and I have confidence, so I think it was good to go down and talk to coaches and scouts face to face and get that across. Years down the road when we look back at this draft class, I am going to be right there at the top of it. That was my goal. Just to try to show why I’m the best in the class or right up there, near the top of the list.
PS: Even though you had to battle through the practices, was there anything you saw down there that made you feel like you couldn’t compete with those guys?
RO: No, not at all. Even in the shape I was in, which was nowhere near 100%, I was still holding my own with those guys and it did was give me confidence. I feel that had I been 100%, I could have dominated.
PS: You mentioned all the places you’ve played all over the field. Is there a specific role that teams feel they want you to play or do you feel they like the prospect of moving you all over the field?
RO: I think a lot of teams are excited about, like you said, the prospect of moving me all over the field and utilizing my abilities in different spots. I’ll do whatever’s asked of me but one of the things I found fun about my position is getting to do different things. I like that stuff.
PS: What type of range are you hearing as far as your draft prospects?
RO: I’ve heard anywhere from second round to fifth round. It’s a big range and I have no idea where I’ll go.
PS: Has any team stood out as far as interest goes?
RO: I don’t know in particular. It’s hard to say. When talking to guys, it sounded like everyone was pretty interested, so I’m not really sure.
PS: Was there a team you grew up rooting for?
RO: I rooted for the 9ers growing up, but I also liked players, so I used to root for Ray Lewis and I was always a big Randy Moss fan growing up, so I rooted for the Vikings back in the day. I’d say my main team was the 9ers or the Raiders. I root for both of those teams.
PS: You have experience lining up next to David Quessenberry. What do you think teams should expect as far as what he brings to the table?
RO: First of all, he’s a tough guy. He’ll do whatever it takes. He’s a hard worker. He’s a lot like me. He’s extremely versatile. He could play tackle, guard or center; it doesn’t matter. Teams can always use a guy like that who is tough, who’s nasty, and who can play all over the line. He’s a smart guy too. He’ll be a dependable, solid pro.
PS: For those who have not seen much WAC Football or San Jose State and may not be familiar with your quarterback, David Fales, what they should expect from him this coming year?
RO: I think he’s getting a little bit of notoriety after the season he had and he should. I honestly feel like he’s going to be the best quarterback in the country next year. I feel like he might have been the best quarterback in the country this year. He’s a stud. I expect him to have another great year like he had last year.
PS: Talk about another coach aside from your head coach about how they’ve helped your development
RO: I’ve had a lot of coaches help me out a lot along the way. I had a great coach in high school, his name is Casey Taylor. He’s still coaches at the high school out here and I stay in touch with him and meet up every time I come home. Moving onto San Jose, Coach (Dick) Tomey, was the one who recruited me there; he was the head coach at the time. He had a great influence on me. And like I said earlier, the tight end coach that I had these last two years, Clayton Adams, former offensive lineman, just helped me out so much with my game, so there have been guys all up and down who have helped me out so much.
PS: What do you fans expect from Coach (Ron) Carragher as he takes over the San Jose State program?
RO: I think they can expect him to pick up right where we left off. He has a lot of talent coming back. I’ve had a chance to meet with Coach Carragher a little bit and he seems like a great guy to me and I like him a lot. All the players talking about him, they like him a lot and have a lot of respect for him. I know he did a great job in San Diego and I got to catch some practices and I like the way he’s running things. I feel like he’s going to have a lot of success in San Jose.
PS: Do you have any thoughts on Coach (Mike) McIntyre moving on to Colorado?
RO: He did what he thought was best for his family and for his future. If I was in his situation, I probably would have done the same thing. He had a great opportunity to move on to Colorado and the PAC-12 and he’s going to have a lot of success there turning that program around a lot like he did for us here in San Jose. We were down when he first got here and he helped us turn it around and quickly too. I feel like he’ll be able to do the same thing out there.
PS: Why did you major in business management?
RO: Well, I wasn’t positive exactly what I wanted to do besides play ball, so I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, so I figured I could always do something with a business degree. I just thought that would be the best thing to go into. It was broad. Hopefully, I can use it when I’m done playing.
PS: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
RO: Just to emphasize that I’m 100% healthy now and my weight is up to 245lbs now. I’m continuing to work to get bigger, stronger, faster, and I’m in even better shape now than I was at the Pro Day a weeks ago.
Most importantly, hopefully Ryan can stay healthy so he just show the talent he has but we wish him nothing but the best going forward into the NFL Draft and the NFL.