Utah Football Is No Longer Just Defense, Running Backs As Tight Ends Have Emerged As A Power Position
Mar 30, 2022, 11:20 AM | Updated: 11:35 am
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY- When you think Utah football, stingy defense instantly comes to mind. After defense, running backs that will blow the doors off a building are probably next. However, there is a new sheriff in town; the tight end. Position coach Freddie Whittingham had an embarrassment of riches during the 2021 season that allowed the Utes to run two and three tight end sets often. It appears more of the same is to be expected in 2022 from the rising power group.
Two Pieces Of The Puzzle Return
There was uncertainty for the Utes after the Rose Bowl about what the tight end room would look like in 2022. Cole Fotheringham, Brant Kuithe, and Dalton Kincaid all had some NFL buzz and could have all declared for the Draft. Only Fotheringham left with Kuithe and Kincaid deciding to return.
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“Both of them had been invited to the Combine and both of them turned that invitation to the Combine down when they decided to stay,” Whittingham said. “I just think both of them felt there were things in their individual games and personal development to work on.”
Another determining factor for Kuithe and Kincaid’s triumphant return is the onslaught of talent heading to the NFL this year due to the pandemic.
“Because of the Covid year last year with this Draft coming up, it’s kind of overloaded with players,” Whittingham said. “Especially at the tight end position. I think they both made a business decision as well to stick around for their senior year here and put themselves in a great position for the following year’s draft.”
Replacing Cole Fotheringham
With two spots secured at the tight end position, the Utes will be looking to flush out who their third option is since Fotheringham declared for the Draft. The Utes do have some intriguing prospects in USC transfer Munir McClain who came to the Utes as a wide receiver, and Thomas Yassmin who has been in the program for four years.
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“First of all he’s got great size,” Whittingham said of McClain’s move to tight end. “He’s 6’3″ and close to 230 lbs. He’s got an 83″ wingspan and he’s got the frame to put on more weight. He ran I think it was a 4.47 in our test day in February and I think for Munir, the ceiling for him is just sky-high. He’s just got a lot of athleticism, he will learn how to block on the line of scrimmage as a tight end, and I think he’s going to be able if he keeps developing to be one of those next great tight ends here at Utah.”
Yassmin’s development has been more gradual because of never having played football till he came to Utah. A former rugby star from Australia, Yassmin has made strides in his game and Whittingham thinks he’s about where they want him to be.
“He looks great through four practices,” Whittingham said. “He’s practicing very, very well, he’s continued to develop his game. He’s a guy who never played football before he got here. You know, he’s in his fourth year and he’s a guy we expect to be a major contributor here this coming fall.”
13 Personnel Here To Stay
Depth is an important piece of the tight end puzzle for Utah. According to Whittingham, three tight end sets are a staple for the Utes and finding that third guy and beyond is crucial to the success of the offense.
“It’s huge,” Whittingham said. “If you get that one guy for whatever reason breaks his shoelace and can’t be in that moment, you have to have someone ready to go in because that 13 personnel is such a valuable package for us. You’ve got to have that fourth guy, fifth guy that can go in and take that role. Like we always say, ‘next man up’. You’ve got to be able to go in and have no drop-off in play.”
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