Competition among the Camaraderie

With the graduation of tight ends Dennis Pitta and Andrew George, a new group of six tight ends are now competing for the chance to be named the heir apparent. Competition among some of the more highly rated tight ends of their respective recruiting classes has cultivated a rather unlikely atmosphere.

They're young but talented. And in time, the coaches will be able to pick from a bevy of tight end skill sets to match basically any situation the field may present. In the meantime, Coach Anae is working with a group still on the learning curve and learning from each other.

"Things had gone well over fall camp and I feel I've gotten better," said redshirt freshman Mike Muehlmann. "Coach Anae is coaching us up and it's kind of good that all of us tight ends are kind of young because we're all kind of making the same mistakes and learning from each other. I feel like we've all improved a ton just from being able to watch ourselves and watch other guys.

"Last year, guys like Dennis [Pitta] and Andrew [George] were making completely different mistakes than I was. They were kind of at a different stage, and so the mistakes they were making were different. I was at the point of just trying to learn the offense last year, but this year we're all learning from each other and it's been fun."

No longer having the experience and practical knowhow of Pitta and George as personal mentors is one disadvantage for this young group of tight ends. However, Muehlmann said they are able to compensate for that.

"Coach Anae takes care of a lot of that," Muehlmann said. "We also have a lot of film from over the last four years, and so we all try to get some film on Dennis [Pitta] and Andrew [George] and just watch how they do things on various plays. We still have those examples from film and can see how they're doing things, and so we can take that example from film and even try and improve on it."

Muehlmann said the first obstacle of being a young tight end is knowing the correct assignments.

"Coach Mendenhall talks to us about first knowing your assignment, and you'll be successful," said Muehlmann. "That's one of the biggest thing he talks about all the time. He says, 'Who is going to win the game? It will come down to how well 11 guys know their assignments out there.' Being young, you do not want to be that guy out there that doesn't know his assignment, and a lot of that is from the expectations of this coaching staff. Getting open and making catches will come. Our first assignment is that we are out there on the field doing the right thing at the right time, and then the balls will fall in the right place. This is how it is now and I'm sure how it was for Dennis and Andrew when they were here. The good thing is we've all got four years to look like Dennis and Andrew."

Despite the many tight ends currently in competition, the level of camaraderie among them is evident.

"We're all really good friends and try to help each other out, you know," Muehlmann said. "A lot of people ask me about that because there is a lot of competition there, and sure we're all competing but we're all really close and help each other out. It's not like I'm not going to tell Richard [Wilson] or Devin [Mahina] or the other guys something I saw that was done wrong, and it's the other way around as well. If we see someone doing something wrong we'll help each other out, because by all of us being better it helps the team.

"It's really a great situation and we're all working to get better. If I'm doing something wrong, one of the guys will come over and say, 'Hey Mike, I think this could help.' We watch film every day after practice. You know, we're in there for an hour and a half and we'll say, 'Hey, look at this safety,' and ‘What if you did this?' If we're all watching film on Dennis and Andrew we'll say, 'Okay, look at this. Look at how they did this.' So we spend a lot of time supporting and teaching each other a lot."

It's an interesting circumstance one must feel when it comes to helping someone they're trying to beat out become better. One would think that getting any edge over one's competition would take precedent over helping that competition become better. But that's not the case for this group.

"I guess it would seem kind of counterintuitive for a lot of guys – knowing that you're competing against guys that you're helping – especially when it's a close race," said Muehlmann. "The coaches have told us that it's close, and when it's like that you would think that you would try and get every little edge that you can. But that's not really what we are about here at BYU. I don't think any of us have that type of position in our hearts. I think we all just want to help each other be the best we can be and let things lie where they lie. We're all trying to compete for a spot, but we're not going to do it at the cost of being a jerk to our teammates. We're going to help each other out as best we can."

With the tight end race being close, the depth chart may need to continue to be sorted out during the season.

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