Jace Amaro isn’t the type of guy who is meant to be wearing a red no-contact jersey.
At 6-foot-5, 257 pounds, contact is what the sophomore tight end’s game is all about.
But given what he’s faced the past two months, relegated to the sidelines in the middle of what had become a highly productive season, Amaro said on Saturday that he’s just glad to be participating at all.
“It feels really good to get back into the groove of things,” said Amaro, who suffered a spleen injury after taking a hit to the midsection on Oct. 13 against West Virginia. “The first days (of bowl practices) were a little rough for me and I wasn’t really as fluid as I had been. I think today was my best practice so far.”
Though he only played six games during the regular season, Amaro’s numbers — 23 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns — were better than that of any tight end in the Big 12 Conference. His presence was heavily missed in the run game, where small receivers Austin Zouzalik and Jakeem Grant couldn’t replicate Amaro’s production as a blocker.
It’s why Amaro said his eagerness to return for the Dec. 28 Meinke Car Care Bowl of Texas against Minnesota is as much about being there for his teammates as it is wanting to play one more game this season for himself.
Tech has yet to announce whether Amaro will play in Houston, and before he departed Tech for Cincinnati one week ago, former coach Tommy Tuberville said Tech would take a wait-and-see approach on his status.
“I’m kind of pushing it right now, trying to get back out there,” Amaro said. “I probably shouldn’t be able to play, but for me, as competitive as I am, I want to be able to play one more game with these guys. Last year, I kind of felt lost. This year I love my teammates. I feel like we’ve really come along, and that’s one of the reasons I want to play so bad.”
Tech quarterback Seth Doege said Amaro had to “shake off the rust” during his first few practices since returning from the injury, but by Saturday it was clear Amaro was beginning to find his old form as he leaped over a defensive back to catch a touchdown pass from Doege in the end zone.
“It’s kind of hard being out for so long and not being able to do anything,” Doege said. “It’s taking him some time to get back in his rhythm and coming out of his routes with his pad level and stuff like that. But each day he gets better, and he’s starting to look more natural. He’s a big-time playmaker for us, and he’ll help us out a lot.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Brewer, the heir apparent to Doege, knows Amaro will be a major target for him next season, so it has been nice, he said, to see the big tight end back in action, if even on a no-contact basis.
“I’m just hoping he’ll be 100 percent for the bowl game,” Brewer said. “Just having him next year, he’s going to be a big-time target. He’s great in the passing game, but where he really poses a threat is in the running game, the play-action game, so he’s going to be big for us.”
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