BYU OC Aaron Roderick ‘gutted’ by Dallin Holker’s departure, shares perspective on situation

The tight end, and co-captain of the offense, left the program three games into the season.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Aaron Roderick at BYU football media day in Provo on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Provo • BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick declined to get into the specifics of BYU tight end Dallin Holker’s sudden departure from the program this week, but he did offer an overall sentiment.

“Was I surprised? Very,” Roderick said when asked if he saw the co-captain’s decision to leave coming. “I love Dallin, I love coaching him and I wish him all the best.

“Really liked that kid and I was gutted.”

Holker’s exit from the program, three games into the season, shocked many within the locker room. Holker appeared in 29 games across three seasons with the Cougars. He had become a well-known target for quarterback Jaren Hall and a respected leader on the team.

But late last Tuesday night, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Holker would leave BYU and enter his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal when it opens in November. The main reason behind the immediate departure, team sources told The Tribune, was a lack of involvement in the passing game.

“l think it caught most people by surprise,” running back Lopini Katoa said. “Just because of the timing of it, you know? But Dallin is a brother of mine, whatever color jersey he is wearing in the future, I will support him and cheer him on.”

Holker had nine receptions this season for 86 yards and a touchdown. Last week against Oregon, he had five catches.

Holker was expected to be a main feature of the offense in 2022. Last year, his first back from a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission, he had 200 yards receiving. Through three games, he was fifth on the team in targets with 10.

Roderick was asked broadly if he feels any pressure to please players in the age of the transfer portal. This could be with their role within an offense.

“I’m not worried about who is happy, ever,” Roderick said. “My job is to beat Wyoming this week. We will play with whoever is available and we will go out there and put the best product on the field that we can. I don’t worry about keeping people happy.”

Roderick declined to say whether Holker had any conversations with him prior to his departure.

“I have already said everything I wanted to say about that,” he said.

Although unlikely at this point, Holker could enter the transfer portal and come back to BYU. Roderick said it would be head coach Kalani Sitake’s decision if he would be welcomed back to the team, if Holker ever had that desire to return.

For now, there are multiple backup plans to fill Holker’s production.

Isaac Rex was the starter while Holker was on the team, and will continue to be. After Rex, there are experienced players like Carter Wheat and Lane Lunt in the mix. A younger player that could make an impact would be Ethan Erickson.

“He is going to be a really good player someday,” Roderick said of Erickson in August. “Maybe this year. He has a lot of ability and is really showing up.”

But Roderick made it clear that Rex would be the featured player. He is still working himself back to 100% health after a leg injury last year. However, he had a 28-yard touchdown catch against Oregon and showed signs of getting going.

“Isaac is already our starting tight end and he will keep being our starting tight end,” Roderick said. “He will keep playing really good football. He is playing very well and he isn’t even 100%.”

Roderick noted he would not overanalyze what happened prior to Holker’s departure. He cited BYU’s track record of retaining players.

“Not at all. We have lost very few players the last few years,” Roderick said. “We have been a good team and we will keep being a good team. I think our players like playing for [Sitake]. He makes football fun and he has a great perspective on football and life. I think guys like playing for him. It is not for everybody obviously.”