Tight End Musical Chairs

Having five talented - but young and inexperienced - tight ends playing together as a group makes it difficult for them to find playing time. What's more important is trying to find ways to develop the individuals within the group. To not be moved down to the scout team, players must prove themselves worthy of being a first-team member.

"You know, I think Coach Anae loves to try and make us prove ourselves," said Marcus Mathews. "He's not going to give us anything. We learned that from day one. Nothing is going to be handed to us, so everybody has had their time on the scout team. Richard [Wilson] and I were on the scout team earlier, Austin [Holt] had it last week, and now Devin [Mahina] and Mike [Muehlmann] are there now. I think Coach Anae puts us there for us to prove ourselves to make us tough and prove ourselves."

As Mathews said, Mahina - who has seen a lot of playing time and even caught a pass against TCU - has been moved down to the scout team this week as BYU prepares for Wyoming.

"It's now my job to help out the defense get a good look this week," said Mahina.

Just after being assigned to the scout team for the first time this year, Muehlmann was reassigned after Austin Holt suffered a concussion.

"I've personally been on the first team every week, but I was moved down to the scout team this week," Muehlmann said. "I was moved back to the first team [Tuesday]."

As for Mathews, he's been caught in the merry-go-round as well.

"I'm on the first-team right now," Mathews said. "After the Air Force game I was moved down to the scout team that week, and then I came back after Florida State. I've been with the first team ever since."

As the Cougars prepare for Wyoming this week, Muehlmann, Wilson and Mathews will be running with the first-team offense.

"It is kind of like musical chairs and nobody really knows, and I think that's one reason why the coaches are doing this," Muehlmann said. "It makes you feel like you have to earn this spot, and I think that's a good thing. Everyone should feel like they have to fight and earn this spot, because we need to play better."

"Yeah, I'm not really sure of all of the reasons, but knowing Coach Anae and talking to past players like Dennis [Pitta] and Andrew [George] - Andrew came and talked to us last week - it's all about Coach Anae testing us," Mathews said. "He doesn't really know us all that well and so he's testing us."

So in what way are they being tested by this?

"For whatever all of his reasons are, we have to show [Coach Anae] that we are tough," Mathews said. "When we are asked to go back to the scout team we can't be hanging our heads. We have to go back there and work hard. When I was there I worked hard and came back to the first team. It's the same situation for Devin, who is now on the scout team. When someone is sent down to the scout team they have to do the same thing and prove themselves."

"When you get moved over to the scout team, you really have to show coach your attitude," Muehlmann said. "A lot of guys could get pissed off about it and moan and complain and take it that way, or you can say, 'Hey, I'm going to work my butt off and use it to get better, and I'm going to show the coach that I do deserve to be on the first team.' Players want to play and coaches want to win games, so we're going to do whatever it takes and do whatever the coaches feel is best to do that. If coach feels that you fit in that effort to accomplish that, then great. If not, then you need to do your best to be that guy next week."

Sending young and inexperienced players back and forth could also be a way in which the coaches are making an effort to help them develop some mental fortitude.

"With how this season is going, I think mental toughness is something we have to build," Mathews said. "This season has been tough so far. I mean, we're 2-5 and we know we're better than that. We haven't been executing what we know we can, so by putting us on the scout team is a way to see if we'll work our butts off and build that mental toughness. The type of attitude I have is when I'm on the scout team I'm not going to get down, but I'm going to work my butt off. That's the attitude I'm going to have."

"I think that's the big reason behind all of this," Muehlmann said. "Football is a tough game and you have a hundred things going through your head. There is a lot going on and so you do have to be mentally tough. There's no question that we are all young and so the coaches want to see who is going to be mentally tough during tough times. This is one way to see who is going to battle back through when they are down. They want to see who is willing to battle back when the chips are down."

However, a lack of experience with the first team could possibly cause poor performances when the opportunity arises. It's hard to understand how chemistry-building opportunities are created through a carousel system.

"Well, there is so much competition between us," Mathews said. "It's like a group of five individual guys that love each other and we have a good time in meetings. Kind of how it is is you don't want to be on the scout team. You want to be on the first team getting reps and getting your timing and chemistry down with the quarterbacks and the linemen with all the calls and stuff. We do understand it's part of the game to be on the scout team to prove ourselves and show that we are mentally tough and then come back."

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