Utah tight end Brant Kuithe is one of the Pac-12′s top playmakers, and gives Utes a powerful, and unusual weapon

Cole Fotheringham and Dalton Kincaid give Utes added depth at the position

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah tight end Brant Kuithe (80) gets past Texas Longhorns defensive back Chris Adimora (11) in Alamo Bowl football action, between the Utes and the Texas Longhorns, in San Antonio, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019.. Kuithe, one of the Utes' top playmakers, will return for the 2021 season.

No one would have batted an eyelash if Brant Kuithe opted to leave the University of Utah following the 2020 season.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound tight end had a team-best 25 catches for 236 yards, while leading all Pac-12 tight ends in receptions per game (5.0). He has led the team in catches among tight ends in each of his three seasons, the last two of which have yielded All-Pac-12 second-team honors. In 33 career games, Kuithe has 79 catches for 1,065 yards and seven touchdowns.

Kuithe has clearly been on an NFL track for at least the two seasons, so no, no one would have even shrugged if Kuithe opted against one more college season and instead entered the NFL draft.

The thing is, a truncated, COVID-impacted, five-game season last fall was not enough for Kuithe to go out on, so he didn’t.

“I had a decent season, but we only won three games,” Kuithe said during spring practice in early April, roughly three months after the Katy, Texas, native announced on New Year’s Day that he would return for the 2021 season. “We haven’t won a Pac-12 championship. That’s most important goal. Every single year, we fall short of it. I came here to win that.”

So, with that statement, Kuithe is back, likely for just one more season, even though he has two years of eligibility remaining after the NCAA froze the eligibility clock last fall due to the pandemic. He returns to Salt Lake City as a significant, critical part of the Utes offense, no matter who the quarterback is.

In 2020, Kuithe’s 25 receptions accounted for more than 26% of Utah’s receptions. If you toss in Cole Fotheringham’s four catches in 2020, plus one more for University of San Diego transfer Dalton Kincaid, the tight end position accounted for 31.6% of all Utah receptions in 2020.

That type of tight end production occurred during the last full season in 2019, when Kuithe (34 catches) and Fotheringham (16 catches) accounted for 21.4% of all receptions.

“He’s an extremely talented young man,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in reference to Kuithe’s versatility. “He’s more of a hybrid than he is a tight end. He doesn’t have the prototypical tight end size. He’s more of an H-back. He played running back in high school. He catches the ball exceptionally well, runs great routes and he’s elusive in the open field as you’ve seen many times over the last couple of years. He’s a big weapon for us.”

The big benefit of Utah’s tight end depth right now is that it is an older group with a lot of experience.

Like Kuithe, Fotheringham has played in all 33 career games, starting 28 of them. Kincaid has played in 29 career games, but 24 of those came at San Diego, where he was an FCS All-American as a sophomore in 2019 after catching 44 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns.

Two other tight end options to consider are 6-foot-5 Australian-born sophomore Thomas Yassmin, who has played in 16 games, including six on offense, and Ali’i Niumataiolo. The senior has played in 33 career games, most of them coming on special teams.