The most improved position on offense

New Cougar offensive coordinator Brandon Doman looks to have his offense humming on all cylinders by the time his charges line up against Ole Miss. Having turned one page of fall camp, most of the offense already is. By the time the season starts, there will be one position that will have made great strides as the most improved within BYU's offense.

The tight end position is a storied one at BYU, but with the graduation of Dennis Pitta and Andrew George after the 2009 season, that story quickly faded into the sunset like an old spaghetti western despite the abundance of talent still within the program. Although there is still growth needed and lots of work to be done, the tight end position will become more of a threat this season.

"We came into spring ball with a different mentality now that we have Coach Doman," said sophomore tight end Richard Wilson. "I think we just felt more comfortable with him as our new offensive coordinator."

But why was that the case? What was it about the changing of the guard with Coach Doman that is now helping to change the disposition of the tight end corps?

"There's just something different about him," said Wilson. "He's really positive, upbeat and understands, and that's why he's such a good offensive coordinator."

Along with Coach Doman – who is a very good communicator and mentor, and is approachable and someone the players confide in – the addition of Coach Reynolds as the tight end coach is another reason why the tight end position will be the most improved. That's a sentiment that Wilson agrees with.

"I wasn't able to do spring ball because I was recovering from surgery, but our guys have worked hard. It's been seven months out since my surgery, so I'm still trying to get my legs back but my shoulder feels good.

"Also with Coach Reynolds, he's taught us a lot about position mastery. There's a lot different feel about the run game and passing game now that we have a better understanding of how to play the position."

Long gone are the round-robin days when a single mistake sent a young tight end back down through the depth chart. Long gone are the days when young, inexperienced freshmen learn to play the position through a self-taught manner.

"Coach Reynolds sat down with us and told us that we have to start all over last spring," said Wilson. "We started completely over with our routes and learning everything new and from scratch. He understood that last year was pretty frustrating, but he took the time to explain why we do certain things at certain times. He's taken the time to help us read coverages of the defenses, and that's helped our knowledge of the game."

Reynolds has the reputation of being an outstanding teacher. He has a personal philosophy of molding an athlete's skill with a high field I.Q.

"We have a lot of good athletes, but with the knowledge of the field we're going to be more of a threat within this offense," Wilson said. "I think we're growing in confidence because of our better understanding of the position.

"You know, last year was last year, but this is a new year under Coach Reynolds. As long as we continue to work hard to get the most out of our potential, Coach Reynolds is going to make sure that we have the other side as part of our game as well."

During the first day of spring camp, a casual observer never would have known that Coach Reynolds has been coaching at BYU for more than 30 years. On this day, youthful energy passionately manifested itself vocally from deep within, both fast and furiously. The usually mild-mannered and stoic Coach Reynolds got on the tight ends a little, making the truth known like an angel shouting from the rooftops.

"Coach Reynolds has emphasized to us that he wants two or three playmakers, and those are going to be the guys that are going to play," said Wilson. "That will make us more comfortable within the offense instead of rotating one or two play with six of us.

"Last year our offense had the struggles that we had and our tight ends were switching every play, every play, every play and couldn't get into a rhythm by doing that. When it came to building confidence, we weren't getting it with the reps that we thought we needed."

Coach Reynolds will field the top three tight end performers this year from a position group loaded with talent. Now it's an issue of sorting out who will play and who won't.

"I'm just glad I'm not in that position as a coach," said Marcus Mathews. "I'm just glad it's not me that has to make that decision, because we have a lot of talent and potential at the tight end position."

One answer to unclogging the tight end jam is to create a tight end/receiver hybrid with the 6-foot-4-inch, 208-pound Mathews, but that's a topic for a different article. Chances are BYU fans will see three tight ends take the field from a group that consists of the aforementioned players, as well as Austin Holt, Devin Mahina, Kaneakua Friel and Matthew Edwards. With the exception of Edwards, who is a senior, all of those players are sophomores.

"Every player that we have at the tight end position brings something different to the table," said Wilson. "Austin Holt is just a big bruiser and I wouldn't want to get in his way. Devin Mahina is just a big target and can go up and catch a ball. Marcus brings the speed, obviously."

Friel, meanwhile, saw action in eight games as a redshirt freshman before serving a mission.

"Kaneakua is just a mystery," Wilson said. "He's just a really good athlete and has really good speed and can get away from a defender. I like to believe that I'm similar in that I can use my speed against defenses."

Regardless of who the two or three will be, one thing is certain: the tight end position will become more of a weapon as the most improved position within the Cougar offense.

"Oh yeah, there's no doubt about that," Mathews said. "It's a plus to have a guy like Coach Reynolds coaching that position. We learned so much from last year and always talk about how we need to play like seniors even though we're all sophomores. That's how we're all looking at it."

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