When it was announced that Cougar great Ty Detmer was taking over the BYU offense and would be bringing a form of the old BYU offense with him, it was met with great excitement by many BYU fans. One of the assumptions that many of us made was that it would also mean the return of the glorified tight end position. BYU football has produced great prolific quarterbacks, and the great passing quarterbacks have often been accompanied by great tight end play.
Unfortunately, last season there was only one tight end who caught a pass — Tanner Balderee had 13 catches for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offensive coaching staff sought to create more mismatches in the passing game with the tight end position by making a much publicized position change by switching Moroni Laulu-Putatau (27 catches, 277 yards, 2 touchdowns) from wide receiver to tight end. Finishing out the current depth chart is freshman Matt Bushman, who is a 6-5, 230 pound returned missionary who was a Semper Fi and Parade All-American selection out of high school.
Balderee is a known commodity at this point, being a senior. He, like most of the tight ends used last season, was used primarily as a blocker with a good running game behind him. He also showed the fans that he could catch the ball when thrown to him. He made some huge catches last season, including the game winning touchdown against Mississippi State in overtime. He is currently listed as the started but has the “or” label with Laulu-Putatau.
The early returns on MLP as a tight end are mixed. He should bring good balls skills and speed to the position but is still struggling learning to block. It is difficult to go from holding off defensive backs to being asked to lining up across defensive linemen and linebackers. In all reality, he probably will never be asked, or able to, drop into pass protection against a defensive end. If he can at least be counted on to chip block and then release, he will be a great weapon for Ty Detmer and Tanner Mangum.
Bushman turned some heads during the spring session and spring scrimmage. He accounted for 4 catches and 105 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown from Freshman Kody Wilstead.
With the collection of talent at the position, which also includes freshman Joe Tukuafu (who is expected to redshirt) and junior Nate Sampson, who also played well in the spring game, that it should be expected that we should see more production out of the tight end position this season.
Other names to watch include junior Hunter Marshall and true freshman Bentley Hanshaw, who was a member of the 2017 recruiting class.