TribUte newsletter: Utah football can survive without Brant Kuithe if ...

The start tight end is out for the season after suffering a torn right ACL, but there is still a path forward for the Utes.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah tight end Brant Kuithe rests during the first day of Utah Utes football camp in Salt Lake City on Aug. 03, 2022.

Cam Rising aside, Brant Kuithe was the most indispensable offensive player the University of Utah had.

The fifth-year senior tight end is finished for the season thanks to a torn right ACL suffered at Arizona State. With the Utes now facing the reality of the final eight games of the regular season without their leading pass catcher and Rising’s most versatile weapon, is this something they can overcome?

Yes, but there are a lot of ifs to consider.

Utah can overcome Kuithe’s absence if the run game and the offensive line continue producing at a high level. The Utes are averaging 213.8 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. Those numbers include Rising, who is at 7.3 yards per carry on 16 attempts.

Utah has run the ball on 58% of its total plays this season. That’s not going to change.

Utah can overcome Kuithe’s absence if Thomas Yassmin answers the call. A rugby player in his native Australia, Yassmin did not play American football until arriving at Utah in 2018. Four-and-a-half years later, under less-than-ideal circumstances, Yassmin is about to receive the most extensive action of his career in place of Kuithe, next to Dalton Kincaid.

For the season, Yassmin has two catches. One was a 29-yard touchdown against Southern Utah, the other was a 72-yard catch-and-run at Arizona State, which nearly went for another score.

No one expects Yassmin to be Kuithe, but Yassmin needs to give the Utes something.

Utah can overcome Kuithe’s absence if, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, the wide receivers can pick up some of the slack.

Devaughn Vele’s six catches for 63 yards at Arizona State were both season-highs. His last two weeks have been tangibly better than his first two. The Utes need more Vele, they need more from Solomon Enis (8-62-1), and they need more from Money Parks out of the slot (5-94-0).

Some of this is on the receivers to get open, some of this is on Rising to spread it around with Kuithe no longer an option.

That’s a lot of ifs, but can Utah get to where it wants to ultimately go without Kuithe? It’s definitely plausible.

Other things on my mind

• No one could have foreseen what Utah’s running backs room would be at this point in the season.

Tavion Thomas was suspended for the first half at Arizona State, then rushed 11 times for a team-high 60 yards. Jaylon Glover got his first career start. Third-string quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson moved over to running back, carrying nine times for 31 yards and a touchdown. Micah Bernard played a lesser role than Jackson in Tempe, then tweeted cryptically, “So many things to say, but I’ll keep quiet and let actions be words”.

Thomas’ status for Oregon State is officially unknown, but Kyle Whittingham on Monday was asked what it would take for Thomas to get back to being a featured running back.

“Consistency and accountability on and off the field,” Whittingham said.

That answer didn’t exactly give off great short-term confidence as a potentially season-defining month of October arrives, so what are we looking at here?

Utah is better off with Thomas getting the bulk of the carries and everyone else filling in as needed. If his availability is again limited, Glover’s workload will increase, while indications early this week, with or without Thomas, were that Jackson’s role will expand. What that means (More carries? Short-yardage stuff? WildCat package?) is unclear.

With or without Thomas, I think there are real questions as to where and how Bernard fits in. That has everything to do with Whittingham on Monday noting that the current pecking order is Thomas, Glover, Jackson, and Bernard.

Bernard, for what it’s worth, is by far the best pass-catching option out of those four, which would presumably come in handy in a post-Kuithe environment.

• The Pac-12 released men’s basketball tip times and broadcast designations on Thursday. I have one thought pertaining to Utah.

Its biggest nonconference game, Dec. 21 vs. TCU, is destined to take place with no juice behind it, despite the Horned Frogs projected as a top 15-20 team to open the season. The game is at Vivint Arena, four days before Christmas, on Pac-12 Networks. The fact the tip time is still TBD is irrelevant thanks to the other factors.

Some positive news for the diehards: The Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Westminster will be shown on Pac-12 Networks, which was not the case last season.

• Four-star class of 2023 forward Keanu Dawes (Stratford High School, Houston) is on campus this weekend for an official visit. That’s a big one, for which Craig Smith and Chris Burgess are doing the heavy lifting. Utah is Dawes’ final visit after Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Rice, and BYU. For what it’s worth, Dawes lived in Utah until he was 9, still visits the state, and is the nephew of former Cougars big man Derek Dawes.