BYU Football Tight End Position Analysis For 2023 Season
May 15, 2023, 1:21 PM | Updated: May 24, 2023, 10:41 am
PROVO, Utah – BYU football heads into the Big 12 Conference with some questions at the tight end position.
One question that doesn’t need to be addressed is who coaches the tight ends. Steve Clark is one of two assistants left that was part of Kalani Sitake’s first coaching staff in 2016.
Clark has an intriguing tight end room consisting of a proven commodity at the top of the depth chart, with many other players looking to establish themselves in more prominent roles this fall.
Here’s a breakdown of the 2023 tight end unit for BYU.
Gone from the 2022 roster: Lane Lunt (Graduation), Carter Wheat (Medical retirement), Samson Peaua
Returning: Isaac Rex (Jr.), Masen Wake (Sr.), Ethan Erickson (Soph.), Anthony Olsen (RS-Fr.), Kyle Hester (Soph.)
Position Changes: Mason Fakahua (RB to TE)
Newcomers: Nason Coleman (Fr.), Jackson Bowers (Fr.)
Editor’s Note: BYU has since added JUCO transfer Ray Paulo from Allan Hancock College.
Isaac Rex is working his way back to full strength
When healthy, fifth-year junior Isaac Rex has the talent to be one of the best tight ends in college football. Rex suffered a devastating leg injury at the end of the 2021 season at USC. Miraculously, he was still able to play last season but was never at full strength.
Cougar Nation! Excited for one more year! BIG 12 LFG! 🏃♂️it 🔙 @BYUfootball pic.twitter.com/qIrr1b6RjK
— Isaac Rex (@isaacrex83) December 19, 2022
Rex returns to BYU, where he said last December, “Excited for one more year!” Last season, while navigating an injury, Rex still had 22 receptions, 320 yards, and six touchdown grabs. During his BYU career, he has 21 touchdown catches. He’s tied with Dennis Pitta for the second-most career touchdown grabs by a tight end. Rex needs only two more touchdowns to pass Gordon Hudson for number one among tight ends at BYU.
He would need 12 to tie Cody Hoffman for the all-time TD receptions lead. However, it’s not unreasonable to think he could accomplish that. In 2020, Rex had 12 touchdown receptions.
During spring practices, BYU was cautious with Rex. He wasn’t tackled during practices, as BYU wants to ensure he is ready for games in the fall.
Rex has a close relationship with BYU QB Kedon Slovis. The two should form a nice tandem in potential red-zone targets this season.
He’s proven to be an excellent inline tight end that can be a sixth blocker along the line and a threat in the receiving game.
If Rex has a big season, he would be a likely target to be selected in the 2024 NFL draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Rex as the 10th-best tight-end prospect entering last season.
What role does BYU’s offense carve out for Masen Wake?
During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, BYU H-Back tight end Masen Wake combined for 22 receptions, 262 yards, and two touchdown catches. Last year was a step back for Wake’s impact on the offense, logging only 10 catches for 42 yards. In addition, BYU fullbacks and wing tight ends as a whole were underutilized last season.
Wake missed the Utah State game last season due to concussion protocol.
Couldn’t miss out on the Big12. pic.twitter.com/3jbe9hCshg
— Masen Wake (@MasenWake13) December 26, 2022
In the past, Wake has proven to be a valuable weapon in BYU’s offense. At a minimum, could Wake give BYU help in fourth and short situations? BYU had a lot of struggles in those setups last season.
During spring practice media observation windows, Wake split time with Mason Fakahua. It will be interesting to see what role is carved out for Wake, who has been a valuable contributor.
Fakahua, a former quarterback in high school, switched from running back to tight end this offseason and had some highlight plays for BYU in spring ball.
The battle for No. 2
One of the best competitions in fall camp on the offensive side for BYU will be the battle for the number two spot at tight end. The returning candidates are Ethan Erickson and redshirt freshman Anthony Olsen.
Erickson stepped in as the number two tight end after the sudden departure of Dallin Holker last season. In the Utah State game, Erickson hauled in a touchdown grab. It was Erickson’s only reception in the 2022 season.
Erickson and Olsen are good athletes with basketball backgrounds in their high school careers. Olsen might have the higher upside as he has only played football for two seasons.
Go cougs😘 pic.twitter.com/HfS8S7QfVO
— Jackson Bowers (@jackson_bow3rs) March 31, 2023
If neither emerges as the number two tight end, they will have to hold off heralded freshman newcomer Jackson Bowers. Bowers is a four-star prospect from Mountain View High in Mesa, Arizona.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Bowers had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Texas, Arizona, USC, Washington, Cincinnati, Colorado, Oregon, and many others. Bowers was the highest-rated recruit in BYU’s 2023 recruiting class.
He plays with a mean streak and has more than enough talent to step in and create a two-tight end tandem with Isaac Rex in his first season.
Rest of the tight ends
A name to keep an eye on is preferred walk-on Nason Coleman. He greyshirted last year and went through his first spring earlier this season. Coleman is 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, and turned down scholarship opportunities from Power Five schools to sign with BYU. As of right now, he’s a developmental player. But has the potential to earn a scholarship and eventually become a key contributor at tight end.
Former New Mexico transfer Kyle Hester joined the BYU program last year as a walk-on midway through fall camp.
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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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