BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall gave the first hint of it Wednesday, saying that junior Kaneakua Friel was having an outstanding camp at the tight end position.
Friday, both tight ends coach Lance Reynolds and offensive coordinator Brandon Doman pretty much made it official: Friel will be the opening-day starter at tight end for the Cougars against Washington State.
"I think he's healthy, and no one else is healthy quite yet," Doman said. "When I say that, I mean 100 percent [healthy]. So his ability to run and stretch the field and do those things is at a higher level than those other guys.
I think it will be an ongoing competition all season with those guys. That potentially could change from week to week.
But right now, Kane gives us at least a stable environment where the tight end can attach, unattach. It just makes it harder on a defense to call coverages, because they call based on personnel and formations."
The development is a bit stunning, because Austin Holt and Marcus Mathews ran with the ones all of camp -- at least the days that the media was able to watch practice.
"First off, today was the best day I have seen them make catches and run around, so between Richard, Austin and Kane Friel, we will be pretty good," Doman said. "Kaneakua has probably emerged as our dual threat guy, where he can be in our flex position, and then be attached in our I-formations and our power looks. So I would suspect he will have the potential to make more plays than the other guys.
The other guys are coming along, working through injuries. I am sure that will be a week to week transition with those guys. Then Devin Mahina will be back in a week or so."
Of course, Mathews is with the receivers now, as has been previously reported.
Doman explains why:
"About a week ago, man, we were down on receivers. We had some injuries, and guys weren't able to practice. Ross Apo hadn't gone in team settings, yet. Now he is able to, but at that time he hadn't. So we needed to get Marcus some reps at receiver.
His versatility -- being able to go between inside and outside -- is a good versatility to have.
Poor guy -- second day out there, he tore his hamstring, so between being sick and the strep and all that, he hasn't practiced. So it is tough for him. ... I feel bad for the kid, because he has worked so hard this offseason. He just hasn't been able to practice as much."
Reynolds called moving Mathews over to receiver a joint decision, and said it remains to be seen whether he will be back with the tight end group anytime soon.
"Well, first of all, depth at receiver is a concern," Reynolds said. "Depth and quality of receiver is a concern. So that's probably one reason. We are having discussions regarding whether we leave him there, or bring him back. So that's a subject we really haven't decided yet, what to do. We are discussing that. It is ongoing.
But that is the question we have: do we need him at tight end, or do we need him at receiver?"
I asked Reynolds what Friel did to emerge the last few weeks of practice.
"He is a big, athletic guy, and always was. I told him this last year. But he wasn't prepared to do this last year. Now he is blocking really well. He seems more steady as a blocker every day.
He has been kind of up and down in the past; he's been inconsistent. He is athletic, and can run pretty good. He's quite fluid. He maintains that; he is catching the ball better. He is running better routes, he is blocking better. He is just doing everything. Right now, he is doing pretty well."
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