Wednesday was a newsy day for BYU sports, with the Maui Invitational matchups announcement (BYU meets San Diego State in the opener), former Cougar linebacker Spencer Hadley signing with the Raiders, the football team holding another open practice and news later that basketball signee Nick Emery has returned home from his church mission nine months early due to a medical condition.
Perhaps lost in the hubbub was my report on how offensive coordinator Robert Anae is going to use the tight end position this season, and what his plans are for starting tight end Devin Mahina.
Mahina has caught just 26 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns in his career, but Anae says the senior has the tools necessary to have a breakout season. He says if Mahina gets open, he will get the ball.
Mahina told me he plans on getting open a lot.
"I am going to be a contributor as far as run-blocking, pass-blocking, and then 5 yard routes, 10-yard routes, going over the middle, working against linebackers," he said. "Just check-downs, stuff like that that traditional tight ends will do."
I wasn’t able to work in a quote from quarterback Taysom Hill about using tight ends more this year. Here’s what Hill said when I asked him about that:
"Yeah, I think [BYU will go to the tight end more]," Hill said. "We’ve done a few different things. We have put Jordan Leslie at tight end, and Keanu [Nelson] and some of these new transfers. They have been able to come in and find a role for themselves. That has been good.
Then we have been able to incorporate a down tight end with [Bryan] Sampson and when Devin [Mahina] gets healthy he will be out there. I expect to use the tight ends more this year. The nature of being in the spread offense is we are looking for more one-on-one matchups, and a lot of times those come on the outside. So that’s what we saw last year."
Here’s more from my interview with Mahina:
On whether he’s won the starting tight end position:
"I am No. 1 on the depth chart, and am appreciative of that, but anything can happen. I just have to continue to work hard and show that I can be the best."
On whether he feels like he is the guy who can reverse the trend of tight ends not getting open:
"I do. I have worked a lot on my fitness over the summer. I have trimmed down and lost some body fat, so I have been working on that and my strength, and I have been watching a lot of film just so I can read some defenses and get open."
On why guys like Leslie and Nelson are listed as tight ends on the roster:
"To me personally, I don’t consider them tight ends. I consider them more inside receivers. I consider a tight end someone who gets into a two-point stance. So I mean, among the BYU tradition, we have seen our tight ends in a two-point stance, but this year we are doing a lot more three-point stuff, and we brought those guys in to be the inside receivers."
On what his strength is, blocker or receiver:
"I would like to say both. I take pass catching as serious as I do run-blocking, and I take run-blocking as serious as I do pass-catching."
On coming in with five other freshman tight ends, then getting neck injury:
"I have had some freak injuries, but it has been good. Couple of road blocks in the way, but I have learned from them. Maybe it is a blessing because I am here by myself. I have more time to shine."
On breaking his hand:
"It was in 2012. I was only out two weeks, then I wore a brace and that was it. My name has a bad connotation because I broke my neck and that takes precedence over anything, but really it is no big deal to me."
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