Tight Ends, Linebackers Stepping Up For Utes
Aug 18, 2022, 1:28 PM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 1:12 pm
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY- The Utes are blessed with an abundance of talent at the tight end and linebacker spots and according to their position coaches, they have been stepping up big time. Both Freddie Whittingham (tight ends) and Colton Swan (linebackers) were singing the praises of their groups and the hard work they have put in to be prepared for 2022.
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Stepping Up At Tight End
Whittingham didn’t have very much turnover at his position from last season aside from Cole Fotheringham who moved on to the NFL. However, Whittingham is feeling confident he’s found a good replacement for Fotheringham in 2022, along with a couple of other guys who have made strides to be in the rotation.
“We brought in Logan Kendall who is a grad transfer from Idaho,” Whittingham said. “You’re going to see him as a line of scrimmage tight end, big physical blocker. We can still get into those 13-personnel groups and will do kind of what Cole Fotheringham did for us last year. He can also play some fullback for us. Thomas Yassmin is also another tight end I feel great about. He’s big, he’s athletic, he can run. He can do it all. Run block, pass protect, run routes. Munir McClain has also moved to tight end and he’s more in the mold of a pass-catching tight end, very athletic, he can run, has really soft hands so I feel really great about the depth going into this fall.”
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One of the guys Whittingham will be depending on to lead the charge in his stacked room is Brant Kuithe. Perhaps the most versatile player in the tight end room, Whittingham says to expect to see Kuithe all over the field, but more importantly, making sure the team as a whole is doing their 1/11.
“Ever since he made the decision to forgo the draft and come back to play one more year, I’ve really seen him step up,” Whittingham said of Kuithe. “His vocal leadership, really setting the tone, setting the example. The strength and conditioning staff said he was one of the biggest leaders in the summer program so we are really happy to see Brant step up that role up as well.”
Dalton Kincaid has also impressed Whittingham with his transformation into a team leader, along with the efforts he’s made the past few years to get his body right and become a better blocker.
“He’s another one that has emerged as a big-time leader on the team,” Whittigham said. “He sets the tone, he practices hard and the last thing I would say about him is that he’s become a really efficient blocker.”
Stepping Up At Linebacker
While Swan’s room is every bit as talented as Whittingham’s, he does have the harder job this season having to replace both Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. Luckily guys have stepped up and taken on the responsibility that comes with filling such big shoes. Swan says he expects to use his freshmen this year in Lander Barton, Justin Medlock, and Ethan Calvert and they have done a good job of preparing.
“There is a lot of experience that got up and left the linebacker room as coach Whitt and many people before me have mentioned,” Swan said. “You take all of those reps that got up and left and somebody has to replace them so young linebackers from top-to-bottom in the room have got to be able to fill those shoes. The impact is huge and immense so we need that youth to rise to the top.”
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Swan does have a little returning production in Karene Reid who is expected to be one of the leaders for the room in 2022 due to experience. So far Swan is happy with Reid and seen a lot of growth from him since last season.
“He is a very conscientious kid,” Swan said. “Throughout his offseason and this fall camp- the sign of a good player is understanding and knowing your weaknesses to work on them. He’s done that ever since our last game and he’s grown mentally, he’s grown physically. His game has expanded and you’re going to see some good things from that kid.”
Another guy Swan is looking to bring some seniority and experience to the room is Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate. Despite this being Diabate’s first and only season with Utah, Swan is pleased with his willingness to learn and lead.
“It was unfortunate not to have him in the spring with that shoulder surgery, but everything looks great,” Swan said. “Long, athletic, fast. His mindset of football is very good. He’s got a great mindset and he’s able to pickup everything I’m putting down which is a great sign. He’s got great energy. Great body language. He’s everything you want.”
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