Jake Hatch continues his BYU position groups review & preview series. This edition covers the tight ends.

BYU’s tight end position is looking for a renaissance of sorts as Ty Detmer takes over the reigns of BYU’s offense. BYU has a rich history with tight ends who have set numerous records but the position languished recent years as Robert Anae favored a more wide receiver-centric attack. Jake Hatch examines which players could help re-energize this position in 2016.

Tight Ends Review and Preview

BYU fans have a reason to hope that the tight end position will become a staple under Ty Detmer as he takes over as BYU’s offensive coordinator in 2016. Detmer utilized the tight end extensively during his playing days as a Cougar (names like Chris Smith and Byron Rex come to mind) and has mentioned in media sessions that the tight end position will be integral in his offensive attack. The question that leaves is which guys at the position can be utilized in 2016 as the coaching staff looks to rebuild the position group. Unfortunately, Ty Detmer’s arrival at BYU comes a season late for two guys who may have played well at tight end in his system.

A debate raged throughout the career of Terenn Houk about whether he was a tight end or a wide receiver for BYU. The 6-4, 225-pound athlete played a hybrid split-out Y-tight end/receiver position that guys like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Tyler Eifert have popularized in the NFL, so as such he’s been classified as a tight end. Houk was a steady performer for BYU during his junior and senior seasons, hauling in 58 receptions for 739 yards and 4 touchdowns. His ability to make tough catches in traffic and in big spots will be missed but the hope is Houk can make it into an NFL training camp and latch on in the pros.

BYU was desperate to get a contributor at the traditional attached tight end position late in the 2015 season so they turned to converted defensive end Remington Peck. A highly-rated tight end in high school, Peck had spent his entire BYU as a stalwart on the defensive line but made an adequate transition and finished the season with 7 receptions for 75 yards and a rare tight end touchdown reception in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against Utah. Peck has exhausted his eligibility so the Cougars now look for other options

A player that BYU coaches thought could be the main contributor in 2015 at tight end was former Alta High School star Steven Richards. Originally slated to be a defensive end at BYU, Richards was moved to tight end before spring ball in 2015. He unfortunately tore his ACL in a non-contact drill early in fall camp and subsequently missed the entire 2015 season. Pending his recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery, Richards will be a guy that should get some looks in spring ball to prove he’s able to contribute.

A former walk-on defensive lineman with the BYU football team, Tanner Balderee (Sherwood High School - Sherwood, OR) joined Steven Richards is making the shift to tight end before the 2015 season. Balderee saw action in 10 games for BYU last season but tallied no receiving statistics. He was mainly utilized in run situations where his tenacity in run-blocking was on display. Balderee also some action as a blocking back in the offensive backfield as the season progressed. He’ll need to flash steady hands and an ability to contribute in the passing game if he hopes to make a bigger impact in 2016.

Former Pleasant Grove Viking Bryan Sampson’s career at BYU has been up and down. Whenever he seemed poised to make an impact or break out, he’s suffered a setback. With Steven Richards injury in fall camp, the popular thought was it would be Sampson who would step into the role and make the position his. Sampson only ended up seeing action in 6 games before a season-ending injury ended his junior season. Sampson has the size (6-4, 235-pounds) and speed to play the position adequately but he hasn’t been productive in his BYU career as of yet. This off-season should be telling about what kind of senior campaign Sampson will have.

BYU added a walk-on who has FBS experience to the tight end ranks last offseason in former Kahuku High School prospect Jackson Kaka. Kaka started his collegiate career at New Mexico State in 2011, where he totalled 15 receptions for 122 yards, including 1 reception for 8 yards against BYU, before embarking on an LDS mission. Upon his return home from the mission field, he opted to walk-on at BYU. The 6-4, 241-pound New Zealand native suffered a elbow injury early on in fall camp and ended up only seeing actions in a special teams/reserve role in two games during the season as a result. Kaka is a standout rugby player and has spent time with BYU’s nationally renowned rugby team during the offfseason. He’ll likely split time between spring football and the rugby team but could bolster his playing prospects with a solid showing in spring ball and other workouts this offseason.

Ty Detmer has done a bit of recruiting himself this offseason as it was announced on social media by BYU Baseball head coach Mike Littlewood that former Pine View High School star Cole Wilstead would trade in his bat and glove for a helmet and shoulder pads. Wilstead will be a junior for BYU in 2016 and the 6-4, 215-pounder will seek to use spring ball and the off-season to retool his game (and his physique) to contribute on the gridiron rather than the diamond. Wilstead was an All-State tight end for Pine View in high school, racking up 751 yards on 51 receptions and 5 touchdowns as a senior. His younger brother, Kody, was a highly-regarded quarterback prospect who signed with BYU and is on a mission currently.

A player currently on the BYU roster who could be an option bulk up and play the role that Terenn Houk played is Josh Weeks. Weeks was a two-time MaxPreps All-American while starring for Show Low High School in Arizona. Weeks was listed at 6-3, 217-pounds on BYU’s 2015 roster and making the move to replace Terenn Houk could be his chance to break out and get on the field at BYU, seeing as he only saw action in two games in 2015 and ending the season with 3 receptions for 23 yards (all came in BYU’s rout of Wagner). Weeks has the frame to add some weight so keep an eye on him to see where he lines up in Ty Detmer’s offense.

Returned Missionaries & Newcomers

BYU will welcome Matt Bushman home as the season gets underway in September 2016. Bushman starred in both football and baseball at Sabino High School in Tucson, Arizona. He had a truly massive senior season for the Sabercats in 2013, totalling 63 receptions for 1,583 yards and 26 touchdowns. Bushman signed with BYU after then-BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall agreed to let him play for Mike Littlewood and the BYU Baseball team so he’ll likely suit up for the Cougars on the diamond in spring 2017 before he plays for the BYU football program in the fall of 2017.

BYU signed Nation Ford High School (Fort Mill, SC) standout Hank Tuipulotu as part of their 2016 recruiting class. A 6-3, 225-pound prospect, Tuipulotu was a monster for Nation Ford in both his junior and senior seasons, hauling in 104 passes for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2014 followed by 125 receptions for 1,725 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015. Tuipulotu will serve a mission before enrolling at BYU in 2018.

BYU will also add a preferred walk-on to the tight end mix in Brycen Yarmo (6-5, 245-pounds) from Campbell High School in Litchfield, New Hampshire. He played last season for Phillips Exeter Academy, which is a prep school in Exeter, NH to further develop his skills. Yarmo is LDS so he was drawn to the BYU atmosphere and when offered a preferred walk-on spot by Ty Detmer, he accepted. Yarmo is expected to serve a mission before enrolling but his status could change pending BYU’s need for bodies in 2016 so keep your eyes peeled for info on him.

In The Recruiting Pipeline

BYU is just beginning to pursue a number of tight end prospects and you’ll see the list of guys they recruit grow as the process continues but there are three prospects BYU is currently pursuing or have interest in as part of the 2017 class.

BYU recently offered Isaac Rex from San Clemente High School in Southern California. Rex is a 6-4, 225-pound athlete whose father, Byron Rex, was a star tight end for BYU in late 1980’s and early 1990’s as one of Ty Detmer’s top targets on Ty’s way to rewriting the college football record books. Rex should garner more offers throughout this summer but BYU was his first offer and he said it was a dream come true to have been offered by the Cougars

BYU is keeping tabs on local tight end prospect Carson Terrell at Lehi High School. An athlete that should garner more looks after he hits the camp circuit this summer, Terrell is 6-5, 225-pounds and capable of playing multiple positions on the gridiron.

Under Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure, BYU offered 6-4, 230-pound prospect Jimmy Jaggers. Jaggers plays for Roseville High School in Roseville, CA and is LDS. While he hasn’t heard from the new staff under Kalani Sitake yet, it is expected that BYU will throw their hat back in the ring for Jaggers services but they can’t wait too long before doing so with this 4-star talent.

BYU has extended an early offer to 2019 tight end prodigy Isaiah Foskey. Foskey will prep at famed De La Salle High School in Concord, California. It is expected that he’ll be the next star tight end prospect there. Foskey is a man child, checking in at 6-3, 200-pounds as a freshman and has already garnered offers from Kansas and Michigan in addition to BYU. There’s a long way to go but Foskey holds interest in the Cougars and BYU will remain in the hunt for his services.

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