BYU wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon confirmed to reporters that the rumored move of Moroni Laulu-Pututau from receiver to tight end earlier this week. Currently 6-4 and 225-pounds, Laulu-Pututau feels at home in his new position.
"I think it's my more natural position playing tight end and I feel good," said Laulu-Pututau. "I thought it would be more different, but I played in the slot a lot last year. Really the only thing that changes is the stance and blocking. I know I have a lot of work to do, but it feels more natural and I feel good."
The biggest challenge for Laulu-Pututau is learning to play in a three-point stance.
"It's completely different and I've never put my hand on the ground," said Laulu-Pututau. "Even when I was playing in high school I've never done it. It's definitely the biggest mountain that I have to climb right now, but the coaches have given me a lot of opportunities and they're putting in a spot to be success. So, I appreciate that. Coach Clark is helping me and I'm making little steps every day."
"It's a tough position because you're half receiver and half tackle," said BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark. "It's finding that personnel and Tanner Balderree did a great job for us in the blocking aspect for us and that's why we were successful in running the ball. He was like an extra tackle. What I think Moroni brings is the kind of tight ends that BYU used to have like Chris Smith, Byron Rex, [Jonny] Harline, [Dennis] Pitta, and more of the pass-catching tight ends."
Clark believes his new tight end pupil is poised to join that elite fraternity.
"Absolutely and he's got some years ahead of him," said Coach Clark. "The only difference is he's being asked to put his hand on the ground. That's what we're going to ask these guys to do and that's what Ty [Detmer] wants in his offense.
"What we're looking to do is create mismatches if defenses want to play their base defense. Now Moroni is on a safety or on a linebacker and we can exploit that in the passing game if he can block. Now he's got Poly blood in him so he can blow up."
Learning to block defensive ends and outside linebackers is a new skill Laulu-Pututau is currently working to hone. It's the single most important aspect of his personal development that will determine if he will become the next great BYU tight end.
"I think I have a long ways to go because of the whole blocking aspect of playing tight end," said Laulu-Pututau. "On the catching side of things I do feel confident because I've done it for so long. I'm not going to put that aside and the plan is to get better at both."
Coach Clark says Laulu-Pututau will play a diverse role as a tight end and won't just be attached to the offensive line.
"He'll still be standing up and there will be times when he'll be needed to block a defensive end or Sam linebacker," said Coach Clark. "I know he can catch, and he can run, but can he do well enough [in the blocking aspect] to survive enough out there for us. That's the challenge and what we're working on right now."
"He's the number one tight end right now," said Coach Clark. "We looked at it as we have to get the best players on the field, and we feel like we have some good receivers. His size is suited for tight end at the next level, and he's doing great. If we can get him nasty at the blocking area, he'll be really great."
BYU fans hope that Laulu-Pututau lives up to the expectations of Coach Clark and indeed becomes the next NFL tight end out of BYU. It's a prospect that even gets Laulu-Pututau excited.
"You know what? There are moments when I do get excited and I start thinking ahead," said Laulu-Pututau with a chuckle. "But I remember something one of my high school coaches, David Kuresa, told me. He said, 'Potential doesn't mean crap unless you do something about it.' I've taken that to heart my whole life."
He'll have to first catch a lot of passes and block a lot of defensive ends and linebackers well before he's taken in a future NFL Draft. However, the chemistry between Laulu-Pututau and BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum has been good.
"Muy bien, muy bien!" responded Laulu-Pututau in Spanish and with a big smile. "That's really about it, muy bien. I really think we're good and we're always getting better. We would come out here and throw together in the off-season and work on our chemistry and timing. It was good because we learned a lot about each other like how he throws and when he's looking to throw. It's all good and things are great."