Utes bolster their group of tight ends with a graduate transfer from SMU

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham, shown during spring practice March, will have another player to work with in 2019, as graduate transfer Hunter Thedford is joining the Utes from Southern Methodist.

Utah's football program has added another graduate transfer, three weeks before preseason practice is scheduled to begin.

Southern Methodist tight end Hunter Thedford will use his final year of eligibility to play for the Utes, the school announced Tuesday.

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Thedford likely will be used as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations. He started three games for SMU as a junior and caught three passes for 36 yards, plus a game-winning two-point conversion in overtime against Navy. Thedford, who’s from Comanche, Texas, reportedly entered the NCAA transfer portal in May.

Utah is stocked with young tight ends, notably sophomores Cole Fotheringham and Brant Kuithe. Fotheringham caught 17 passes for 190 yards last season and Kuithe, a who has been used in more of a receiving role, had 20 catches for 227 yards. The Utes have three other tight ends on the roster, including redshirt freshman Thomas Yassmin of Australia, but an opening was created when Jake Jackson took a job in real estate development in the spring, forgoing his senior season of football.

Thedford becomes the fifth graduate transfer since April to say he’s joining the Utes in 2019, although two former UCLA players — linebacker Mique Juarez and kicker Andrew Strauch — are not yet listed on the published roster. Offensive linemen Alex Locklear of Marshall and Noah Osur-Myers of Washington State are on the roster, as is linebacker Manny Bowen, who participated in spring practice after arriving from Penn State in January.

Utah has lost some grad transfers, with receiver Siaosi Mariner and defensive end Caleb Repp going to Utah State and running back Armand Shyne moving to Texas Tech.