Spring Preview: Tight End

Utah has to replace Jake Murphy with a lot of young talent

The Candidates
Siale Fakailoatonga
Played in 10 games but recorded only 2 catches. Fakailoatonga is still a young player only a sophomore so still has room to grow and also possesses good size at 6-4 and 245 pounds. The former walk-on has earned a scholarship and had some issues surrounding his personality coming out of high school, but it looks to be in the past and he seems focused on football and has become more mature. The concern with Fakailoatonga is his knee and might be the only the thing that stops him from becoming a good tight end in the PAC-12 down the road. Is a dark horse for the no.1 tight end and will likely see playing time at the no. 2 spot. Might have the most talent of the group..

Evan Moeia
Moeia came to Utah last summer after picking them over USC. Athletically, he's very elite, and should figure heavily into the mix, but the jury is still out without much to go off of. Is probably the best tight end on the roster after the catch. Spring is his chance to shine and show what he can do.

Harrison Handley
Is a hometown kid who is a sophomore. Has good height at 6-5 but can add more room to his frame-which is 235. Played as a receiver in high school, will look to make an impact in spring ball. –put on 20lbs of muscle –is a hybrid wr/ te smooth athlete –had a good redshirt year.

Greg Reese
Reese joined the team mid-year in the 2013 season. Reese has a big body at 6-5 250 lbs. Reese is a good blocker and will be vying for playing time come spring ball. Is a former Junior College player and has one year of eligibility left. Lettered in both track and football in high school. Looks good coming off the bus (Antonio Gate) –practice looks like A G, will look like an awkward te –inconsistent –freak of nature – needs to develop consistency –mental lapses –verdicts not out.

Westlee Tonga
Likely to be the starting TE once spring ball starts. Is in the process of receiving a medical redshirt. Was one of two starting tight ends last year. Most experienced tight end on the roster having played in 25 games and is the only tight end on the roster that has recorded a touchdown catch as a Ute. Good size at 6-4 252 lbs. and is sneaky athletic. Inconsisties and injuries have riddled his career, but everything points to a good spring in 2014.

Projected Spring Depth Chart
Westlee Tonga
Evan Moeia or
Siale Fakailoatonga or
Harrison Handley

What Needs To Happen
Having lost their star tight end, Jake Murphy, to the NFL the Utes are looking for a new starter at the position. The Utes are fortunate that the competition for the starting spot will feature a lot of interesting prospects including Westlee Tonga, who was one of two starting tight ends last year when healthy. Orthodox thinking says start the senior, but the Utes have good competitive players in Siale Fakailoatonga and Greg Reese that make this an interesting spring battle and whoever wins will have earned the job through competition, not by default.

Things that are going to be interesting to watch will be how Greg Reese performs during spring practices. Reese is a good blocker but a lot needs to be seen from the rest of his game. A lot of people think he's been a bust but the jury is not out on him. He's a freak of nature and when he steps on the field people will ask who he is (based off of looks). He can make plays and do some good things on the football field but he'll have to have his head in the game and develop a lot of consistency and show the coaching staff that he can do that down after down.

Reese isn't the only tight end on this roster with consistency issues as Tonga's career has been marred by them and injuries. But there is a reason why he was the number 2 tight end last year but he still needs to show consistency in his game. Tonga is also in the process of receiving medical redshirt-which grants him one more year of eligibility.

Of the other tight ends, a dark horse starter candidate is Siale Fakailoatonga. A young guy with great size, athleticism and might be the most talented of anyone in the group. He doesn't come without his share of issues though. Coming out of high school he wasn't the most mature kid and lost his scholarship as a result. This offseason he has matured and his focus is back on football, he's earned his scholarship back and has the potential to be a really good PAC-12 tight end down the road and rumors around the program say he has the potential to play on Sundays. The only other thing that will hold him back are issues with his knee and he wears a large brace for it. The only person that can get in Siale's way is himself.

Someone to not overlook is Harrison Handley is the local kid from Alta high school. On the current roster he's listed at 6-5 and 235 lbs, but after a good redshirt year looks like he's put on about 20 lbs of good muscle. He's a smooth athlete and coupled with a lot more weight could turn a few heads. Handley is more a hybrid TE/WR type player. He could surprise a few people, and might develop into a good player for the Utes.

The tight end battle could turn into an interesting one in the spring practices. The players are there, the talent is there, the competition will hopefully bring the cream to the crop and bring out the best player.

Projected Depth Chart Coming Out of Spring
Westlee Tonga
Evan Moeia or
Siale Fakailoatonga or
Harrison Handley


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