BYU tight ends expected to make an impact this season

By Jeff Call, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Aug. 6, 2014, 8:55 p.m. MDT

 BYU tight end Devin Mahina during practice at BYU's indoor practice facility on Monday, March 31, 2014.

BYU tight end Devin Mahina during practice at BYU's indoor practice facility on Monday, March 31, 2014.

(Hugh Carey, Deseret News)

PROVO — BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae offered an interesting analogy when asked why tight ends haven’t played a significant role in the Cougar offense of late.

“The offense works kind of like your elementary school voting booth. People aren’t going to vote for you to be 'Romper Room' leader unless you earn that,” Anae said. “It’s the same thing in football. If those tight ends weren’t getting open, they weren’t getting balls, they just weren’t earning that. It’s the same principle. You earn it, your teammates respect you, and it becomes more productive visibly. We did not have that happen last year.”

Senior Devin Mahina, who returned to practice Wednesday after nursing an ankle injury, caught seven passes for 64 yards last season, but he is hoping to make a bigger impact this season.

Mahina is a traditional tight end, running routes out of a three-point stance. However, on the fall camp roster, receivers like Jordan Leslie (6-3, 210) and Keanu Nelson (5-11, 184) are listed as tight ends.

“It’s not so much using the tight end, it’s where can our best players be used,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall. “We have different versions of tight ends as you’ve seen. Devin will be more a hand-on-the-ground true tight end, but you’ll also see Jordan Leslie, Keanu Nelson, guys like that, playing an inside receiver spot. There’s really not quite the hybrid of Dennis Pitta, Jonny Harline. We kind of have either receivers or tight ends now. Based on the personnel grouping will be how we use them.”

Other tight ends on the roster include Terenn Houk, Colby Jorgensen, Matt Sumsion, Bryan Sampson, and Chase Frei.

Quarterback Taysom Hill enjoys having a bevy of weapons at his disposal.

“I expect to use the tight ends more this year,” Hill said. “The nature of being in the spread offense is, we’re looking for one-on-one matchups, and oftentimes that comes on the outside.”

LANGI AND TAKITAKI: A pair of new inside linebackers have impressed Mendenhall through the first few days of fall camp — sophomore transfer Harvey Langi and freshman Sione Takitaki.

"From where I sit as the head coach, I usually make a note to the coaches everyday which players I notice, and who clearly needs a bigger role or needs the ball,” Mendenhall said. “There hasn't been a day that we've practiced where I haven't noticed (Langi) as either moving faster, creating plays, being around the ball. Still learning assignments, but he's doing a nice job."

Mendenhall heaped similar praise on Takitaki.

Langi played at Utah as a freshman and joined the Cougars just before the start of fall camp after his LDS mission.

There were rumors and reports that Takitaki might have to sit out this fall, but Mendenhall said “there are no issues with (Takitaki)."

LOGO-LESS: So far, BYU players are not wearing the “Y” logo on their helmets.

Mendenhall said going without the oval stickers is a decision that is symbolic in nature.

“It was really a clean slate,” the coach explained. “There are a lot of changes in college football going on right now, and with a new role for myself as head coach, and really just a different era of college football, I see a lot of things almost starting over, so it was more symbolic of a clean slate. … It’s certainly not a punishment, it’s just starting fresh.”

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1. CaliCougar
Claremont, California,
Aug. 6, 2014

It is going to be interesting to see how the tight end position plays out in fall camp. I attended both "open" practices and it appeared that Mahina and Houk have the inside track. Both are very capable. Sampson is a sleeper in the mix. He also looks talented. What makes it interesting is that some of the wide outs (Leslie and Apo for example) have a great combination of speed and size, and could be very productive in a spread TE position that could also feature Mathews, Blackmon and Kurtz on the field with them as true wide outs. Lots of big and fast targets for Hill.

Nelson and Juergens look good in the slot position, and Williams and Hine look good catching passes from their running back position. Hill will have plenty of people to throw the ball to, and BYU will be able to keep defenses guessing with many different formations.

The keys are whether Hill can improve his passing accuracy and the offensive line can provide the protection he will need. If these
two things happen, BYU will put plenty of points on the board this year.

2. bigirish
Aug. 7, 2014

I don't know, this article doesn't give a lot of clarity as to whether the TEs will play a significant part of the offense or not. And that is probably because it doesn't seem that the coaches seem to indicate a clear use of TEs either. I hope Mahina can make an impact in his last year. And I don't get how those shorter guys are TEs and not wide receivers, since we have a bunch of other TEs to develop. Someone enlighten me, thanks.

3. Spokane Ute
Spokane, WA,
Aug. 7, 2014

Does anyone know what ever happened to Austin Holt? He was highly rated coming out of HS but never seemed to find his way at BYU.

4. fan in orem
Orem, UT,
Aug. 7, 2014

Spokane: I believe he switched over to D Line, finished his career last season. Not sure what impact he made at DL. He was not a starter, but may have been in the rotation.

5. Spokane Ute
Spokane, WA,
Aug. 7, 2014

fan in Orem

Thanks; I was freinds with his Dad in HS and recall that he was one of the highest rated Tight Ends in the country coming out of Bingham. Too bad things didn't work out. Thanks again!