Can the BYU TE return to glory?

Kaneakua Friel with a catch against Washington State in 2012 - George Frey

The tight end position has a rich history in BYU high-powered offenses. For the last few years it has been a neglected position in Provo. With the current crop of young men playing tight end in 2013, and a revamped offense under Robert Anae, can the tight end position return to prominence?

Over the years the tight end has been an integral part of the BYU offense.  People remember the name Chad Lewis, Dennis Pitta, Gordon Hudson, and Clay Brown.  Do the names Johnny Harline, Daniel Coats, or Doug Jolley ring a bell?  These are just a few of the impressive tight ends to play at BYU.

Now try and name the tight ends that have been used since Dennis Pitta and Andrew George.  Even though these have been more recent, it's be a bit more difficult as they haven't received much of the spotlight.

For the last few years the tight end has been under-utilized in the Cougars offense, and for most fans it has become a forgotten position.  The fans had a brief glimpse of tight end glory last year in the opening game, but that quickly became a memory as the position was again ignored for most of the year.

Now we come to 2013.  With the new offense installed by offensive coordinator Robert Anae, the tight end is expected to blossom and flourish in a number of ways.

One tight end was heard saying that the offense will allow them to take defenses deep while also being used in the H-back position.  Now that said, the use of the tight ends did not materialize in the first game as much as we expected.  Brett Thompson was the only tight end to catch a ball, and it was only 2 for 20 yards, and he dropped a critical third down catch near the end of the game. With better weather and a healthier star receiver, Anae could be calling throws more against Texas, meaning the tight ends would get the opportunities Cougar fans have been wanting since the days of Pitta and George.

As we look at the future of this position, let's take a look at the players that will be attempting to attain the lofty expectations placed by the coaches and fans.

The Starters:

Kaneakua Friel and Brett Thompson have been listed on the depth chart as rotating starters.  Bronco has mentioned that the starting position won't be any different than the rest of the team, with exception to who plays the first series or two.  This means there will be quite a bit of rotating at the tight end.  With the naming of the rotating starters, we can also guess that there will be two tight end sets that will allow for more variety in the blocking and passing schemes.

Kaneakua Friel:

Kaneakua is a senior from Kaneohe, Hawaii and led the Cougar tight ends in 2012.  He played in 13 games, had 30 catches for 308 yards and five touchdowns.  He looked poised to have a breakout season after six catches, 101 yards and two touchdowns against Washington St. in the 2012 season opener.  This year he has been named to the John Mackey Award Watch List as well as the 2013 CFPA Tight End Watch List.  He is a big body with good hands and a quickness that is rarely found in someone that is 6-5 and weighs 261 pounds.   One word that has been to describe his play is consistent.

It is interesting to note that in 2011 he was asked by Coach Mendenhall to switch to defense and play linebacker due to the depth at tight end.  After refusing, and being buried on the depth chart, circumstances and injuries led to Friel to be named starter.

Brett Thompson:

Brett is a junior this year from El Dorado Hills, California. He has been labeled as a dependable possession receiver that doesn't think twice about using the middle of the field.  He played in 11 games last year but did not record a stat.  As a freshman in 2009 he had 6 catches for 95 yards as a wide receiver.  He made his move to tight end after spring camp earlier this year.

Point of interest: He hails from the same high school as Austin Collie.

The Role Players:

Most, if not all these players will see time in the new system, the only question is if they will make the most of their time.  The fans expect the world out of our tight ends and so if the starters are not producing, don't be surprised to see one of these players jump in.

Devin Mahina:

Devin Mahina is a junior from Ontario, California. He is 6'-6" tall and weighs in at 247 lbs.  Due to injuries he redshirted in 2011, but should see time on the field this year.  He is a big body that loves to block almost as much as catching the touchdown pass.  You can see his confession to that in his interview here with BYUtv Sports.  He played both his freshman and sophomore years and compiled 19 receptions for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He was recruited by eight Pac-12 schools before choosing BYU.  His play is very physical as the following video shows from fall camp.

Terenn Houk:

Terenn Houk is a sophomore from Enumlcaw, Washington.  He comes in at 6'-4" and weighs 213 lbs.  He played in five games last year without recording a stat. Much of what he'll be able to contribute to the BYU offense will have to be proven in the coming games.

Richard Wilson:

Richard Wilson is a senior from Spanish Fork, Utah but has dealt with injuries for most of his BYU career.  He is 6'-3" and 245 lbs.  While redshirting in 2009 he played on the scout team as a linebacker.  He has compiled career stats of 23 catches for 293 yards and a touchdown. He was previously recruited by BYU, LSU, Utah, Miami, Tennessee, Stanford and Boise State.

Stehly Reden:

Stehly Reden is a sophomore from Valley Center, California.  He weighs 230 lbs and is 6-4.  Coming out of high school he was ranked as one of the top 100 offensive guards in the country.  He played in 8 games last year and recorded 1 catch and 7 yards. He was recruited by BYU, Air Force, SDSU, Colorado St., Kansas, Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, Washington St. and Stanford.

Bryan Sampson:

Bryan Sampson is a freshman from Pleasant Grove, UT and is 6'-4" and 210 lbs.  Rivals.com ranked him 35th among the nation's tight ends.  He was recruited by BYU, Idaho State, Utah State, and Washington State.

How do you feel about our group of tight ends this year?  Many haven't had a chance to make an impression yet, but could get the chance this year. Who would be the ones to step-up and fill the shoes of those that have gone before?  Weigh in using the comments below or take a vote in the poll.

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