Provo • Tight end Matt Bushman led BYU in receptions last year, hauling in 49 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns to earn Freshman All-America honors in several national publications.
He might not be as productive in the pass-catching department his sophomore year, but that’s perfectly fine with him. The Cougars have three high-quality receiving tight ends in Bushman, junior Moroni Laulu-Pututau and freshman Dallin Holker and two blocking-oriented TEs who also made the depth chart, junior Addison Pulsipher and senior JJ Nwigwe.
“We are going to have a lot of two tight end sets,” said Bushman, the only tight end who caught more than two passes last year. “We are going to have a lot of us in there, depending on the game plan.”
Some eyebrows were raised when the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Bushman was listed as a co-starter at the position along with all the aforementioned Pulsipher, a converted offensive lineman.
Not to worry, he said, dispelling the notion that preseason camp didn’t go well for him because he added 10 pounds to his frame to become a better blocker. He also dropped a few passes in the media viewing portions of practices and didn’t seem to be able to get open as much as he did in camp a year ago when he took the program by storm.
BYU AT ARIZONA
When • Saturday, 8:45 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPN
“Personally, there are always things that we can do better,” he said. “I was challenged a lot on my blocking, to get my technique better. I think I progressed with that. … I showed some more toughness. I mean, yeah, there are things I can always do better, but I did decent during fall camp.”
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said the deduction from the apparent depth chart snub should be that “we have a lot of good tight ends.” Grimes said they all have different roles.
“Matt is certainly a talented player, but so are those other guys,” Grimes said. “So we will see a lot of tight ends get playing time.”
Tight ends coach Steve Clark said Bushman “hasn’t slipped a bit” and is just as fast as he was before he added 10-15 pounds and got married a few months ago to BYU volleyball player Emily Lewis, daughter of another former BYU and NFL tight end great, Chad Lewis.
“I haven’t noticed a drop-off with his speed, or his hands,” Clark said. “But the [weight] has helped him in the run game, an area in which he needed to improve.”
Clark said Holker, the highly recruited Lehi product who was originally going to serve a church mission before enrolling at BYU, has been better than most imagined he would be.
“The quarterbacks love throwing to him,” Clark said. “He’s young, but he just has a knack for getting open.”
Clark said Laulu-Pututau, or “MLP,” also had a great camp and deserved to be listed on the depth chart after missing last year with a Lisfranc foot injury.
“He’s got lingering foot issues that we are still working through. He hasn’t gotten as many reps as some of the other guys,” Clark said. “But knowledge-wise he is as good as anybody out there. He knows the offense, so that has not been a problem. We are just trying to keep him healthy.”
Bushman said “the sky is the limit with the tight end group,” a far cry from 2017 when it was as thin as it has ever been at BYU.
Saturday’s opener will be a homecoming for the big redhead because he spent a couple years in Tucson after his family moved there from New Orleans and played at nearby Sabino High School. He will have plenty of supporters in the seats, including some of his former high school coaches.
“There are a lot of people sending me messages saying they are excited to watch me and see me perform in front of family and friends,” he said. “So it is going to be a neat experience.”
ABOUT MATT BUSHMAN
• BYU’s 6-5, 245-pound sophomore tight end is from Tucson, Ariz., and played for Sabino High
• Married to BYU volleyball player Emily Lewis, daughter of former BYU tight end great Chad Lewis
• Played baseball for BYU in 2017 but is focusing on football only this year
• Named Freshman All-American by USA Today Sports, FWAA, 247sports.com and Chat Sports after catching 49 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns last season