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Provo • At one point in preseason camp, junior Kaneakua Friel was listed as the No. 5 tight end on BYU’s depth chart, behind fellow juniors Austin Holt, Richard Wilson and Marcus Mathews and sophomore Devin Mahina.
Now, he’s listed as the starter at a position the Cougars say will be utilized more this year, after a couple of seasons of poor production from that spot.
"It is going to be Kane," tight ends coach Lance Reynolds said Friday, when asked who will start Thursday against Washington State.
Reynolds said the "two injured guys," Holt and Wilson, "have made big progress" but were "struggling a little bit, moving around," when camp started.
Both saw their sophomore seasons abruptly ended by knee injuries in 2011. Both have said they are completely healed, but coaches apparently aren’t convinced, although Reynolds did say "they look like they are 100 times better. They run around better. Moving, breaking, they are doing it all better."
Then, Mahina suffered a broken bone in his hand three days into camp that trainers said would keep him out for two to four weeks.
Mathews was the presumed starting tight end most of camp, but he was moved to receiver at the end of last week because he is familiar with the routes, and because the Cougars "are looking for depth" at the receiver spots, coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged Friday.
Quoting New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Mendenhall said: " ‘The more you can do, the more you can do.’ So, if he can do both, he can do both."
And so that leaves Friel as the man. The first reception of his college career went for an 8-yard touchdown last year against Oregon State. He credited the more experienced tight ends for helping him learn the nuances of the position and the offense.
"No matter who is out there, the tight ends are going to make a big ruckus this year," he said.
The new tight end
When Mathews was moved to receiver — a move that offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said might not be permanent — redshirt freshman Terenn Houk, 6-foot-4, 215, was moved to tight end.
"He’s a big, tall guy that has great ball skills. He can catch it and get his hands around the ball. He can jump pretty good. He’s tall, kinda lean still," Reynolds said. "But he’s got quick feet, quick hands, and he’s a big, long guy. I think he’s got the skills to be a tight end. Now we have to see if he can actually do it."
Doman said Friday that he suspects the second-leading ball-carrier this year will be quarterback Riley Nelson. And the third? "Probably David Foote," he said. "Then Iona Pritchard, I am sure, will get some carries, too." … Doman said freshman RB Jamaal Williams won’t be redshirted because he will contribute both from the backfield and on special teams. … Linebacker Kyle Van Noy missed practice Friday with what trainers said was "tightness" in his hamstring. They said it was not related to his surgically repaired shoulder.
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