FARGO — Josh Babicz has a frame that suggests he's a tight end paired with agility that hints he's a wide receiver.
North Dakota State expects to use Babicz, who is listed as a tight end, in both roles this upcoming football season. Listed at 6-foot-6, 253 pounds, the sophomore is likely to line up at multiple spots in the Bison offense.
"He has good movement skills for a big kid at 250 pounds," Bison offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl said. "He can do anything for our offense. We just need to focus in on what he does the best and utilize him in that way."
Babicz played in 15 games as a redshirt freshman last fall, finishing the season without a reception. He's listed as the No. 2 tight end on the depth chart behind senior Ben Ellefson, who is from Hawley, Minn. Ellefson had 14 catches last season for 194 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Noah Gindorff (6-6, 262) is also in the tight end mix. Gindorff played in 12 games last season and finished without a reception.
"Those three can be used at any position on the field," Roehl said. "The way we want to do things is be really complex with formations and personnel. ... The more complex we can be, it's going to give some of those defensive coordinators some headaches."
Roehl said Babicz reminds him of a former Bison tight end, who was also an accomplished pass catcher.
"Josh is a bigger version of Jeff Illies," Roehl said. "He's not Jeff yet, because Jeff was a really good player for us. It's getting him to understand the whys, the hows, everything of our offense and he's getting really close."
Along with lining up at the traditional tight end spot, Babicz could be used in the slot in more of a wide receiver role or in the backfield as a "move" tight end.
"We can do so much with him as far as flexing him out, using him in the run game, putting him in the slot, using him in some of our heavy personnel," Roehl said.
Bison head coach Matt Entz said you can expect to see more cross personnel groupings on offense with the tight ends playing a role in that philosophy. There could be formations that have Ellefson, Babicz and Gindorff all on the field at once.
Entz likes the idea of flexing out Babicz at more of a receiver spot in certain situations.
"You're talking about a 6-6, 244-pound wide receiver out there, who has excellent hands and speed," Entz said of Babicz. "Defensively, we've had to deal with that over the course of the last four or five years. It will be nice to see us doing that back to some of our opponents."
Entering his third season in the program, Babicz welcomes the variety of playing different spots. He said he primarily played wide receiver during his prep days at Barrington (Ill.) High School.
Babicz welcomes the opportunity to be a physical blocker in the running game, while also getting the chance to make big plays in the passing game downfield.
"It is fun to catch the big ball down the field, but being in the thick of it and being able to put my face on people and just block ... that's more exciting than catching the big ball sometimes," Babicz said. "I like to do everything."
Babicz said players like former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have the type of versatility he hopes to develop.
"Mostly Gronk I would look up to, but all those tight ends, those are guys you look up to because they are bigger guys who can still block in-line, but go out and receive the ball," Babicz said.
Roehl said the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Ellefson is the undisputed lead in the tight ends group. Ellefson is the type of leader who can help players like Babicz and Ginforff develop and mature.
"He brings a ton of knowledge," Roehl said of Ellefson. "He truly already does handle himself like a professional. He's so serious, he's mature, he's a captain-type player for us and he just does things the right way. He's a great role model for all of the young players."