Gordon Hudson. Chad Lewis. Itula Mili. Jonny Harline. Dennis Pitta. The list of quality tight ends in BYU’s football history is extensive.
Since the graduation of Dennis Pitta and Andrew George in 2009, however, BYU struggled for nearly a decade to find consistent tight end production. With the emergence of Freshman All-American Matt Bushman last year, BYU finally has a tight end is considered among the nation’s best.
Matt Bushman isn’t the only contributor in this tight end group, though. With the return of Moroni Laulu-Pututau from injury, two promising true freshmen, and a converted offensive lineman, BYU looks like it fields its deepest tight end group in nearly a decade.
Here’s a breakdown of the promising group.
Matt Bushman, sophomore
We know how vital Bushman is to BYU’s offense. In his first year off an LDS mission, Bushman led BYU with 49 receptions and 520 yards, and was tied with for lead with 3 receiving TD’s. Now, with a full offseason and a year of experience under his belt, Bushman will once again be a major factor in Jeff Grimes’ new offensive system.
Moroni Laulu-Pututau, junior
MLP was expected to be the number one tight end heading into last season before he suffered the dreaded lisfranc injury in fall camp. After a year of rehab, Laulu-Pututau considers himself 100% heading into the season.
As a wide receiver in 2016, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound junior hauled in 27 catches for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. His best catch of his career was this one-handed snag versus Mississippi State.
Moroni Laulu-Pututau's catch was #10 on SportsCenter's top 10 https://t.co/WOIXO0wmSP— Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs) October 15, 2016
Moroni likely won’t have the same burst as he did before the injury, but he is a big body who will be another weapon in the passing game.
Dallin Holker, freshman
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound true freshman was one of BYU’s best signees in the 2018 recruiting class.
Holker put up some crazy numbers during his time at Lehi High School, where he caught 97 passes for 1,766 yards and 22 touchdowns during his senior year. For perspective, BYU had 13 receiving touchdowns in 2017.
Holker still has work ahead to improve his run blocking, but his pass-catching ability is undeniable. Holker may not see a ton of reps early in the season, but he is a guy that can make a immediate impact as a true freshman.
Hank Tuipulotu, freshman
Another true freshman, Tuipulotu recently returned home from his mission over the summer. A South Carolina native, Tuipulotu chose BYU over an offer from the Gamecocks of the SEC.
Tuipulotu also put up big numbers in high school, catching 125 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns during his senior season at Nation Ford. He also hauled in 17 touchdowns during his junior season in only 10 games.
Hank boasts good bloodlines. His father and uncle both played football for BYU while his mother played basketball for the Cougars.
With the amount of bodies ahead of him, the new redshirt rule could benefit Hank as he gets back in shape post-mission. Under the new redshirt rule, players can play up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.
JJ Nwigwe, senior
A converted offensive lineman, Nwigwe is BYU’s best blocking tight end. Nwigwe played along the OL until being switched over to TE last year. Although a blocking specialist, Nwigwe has been catching passes during fall camp.
With his blocking skills separating himself from the other guys on this list, Nwigwe will likely see a lot of reps as Jeff Grimes works to establish the run game.
Other tight ends on the roster:
- Nate Heaps, redshirt freshman, who signed with Weber State before his LDS mission
- Ben Ward, freshman