The TribUte newsletter: Dalton Kincaid an observer as Utes hold Utah Pro Day

Plus: The big winner of pro day, and some thoughts on Branden Carlson going to the NBA Draft

Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Dalton Kincaid was present at Utah Pro Day Thursday morning at the Eccles Field House, but that was about the extent of it.

The All-Pac-12 tight end wasn’t in workout clothes. He did not run the 40-yard dash, he didn’t bench press 225 pounds as many times as he could. Kincaid was an observer as the NFL Draft approaches on April 27.

Kincaid is on the mend after suffering a back injury in Utah’s regular-season finale vs. Colorado on Nov. 26. He managed to catch four passes six days later against USC in the Pac-12 championship game, but that was it. The injury kept Kincaid out of the Rose Bowl, and it’s been an eye toward the draft ever since.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) NFL scouts watch as University of Utah's Jaylen Dixon runs a pass play at Utah Pro Day Thursday at the Eccles Field House, March 23, 2023.

“A lot of it was really just film work at the beginning, but since I’ve been cleared, it’s more of, do I want to train to run a 40-yard dash, or do I want to train and get ready for camp?” Kincaid said Thursday after pro day concluded. “For me, I’m really getting prepared for camp, and I want to come in in my best shape and form for that.”

Kincaid was cleared on Monday to begin working out, but has not yet been cleared for contact. His intention at this point is to be healthy for the offseason portion of his rookie season this spring with his new NFL team, which is an indication that he doesn’t plan to do anything physical for any NFL team in the month before the draft.

Frankly, even if Kincaid were healthy, he still wouldn’t have to do anything. His stock has skyrocketed in the time since the Rose Bowl, to the point where he is now widely projected as a first-round selection, if not the first tight end to come off the board on April 27.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah's RJ Hubert is tested on his vertical jump height at Utah Pro Day Thursday at the Eccles Field House, March 23, 2023.

“Honestly, it’s more for my dad, I think he enjoys it a lot more,” Kincaid joked when asked about draft projections. “If I was to go in the first round, I think it would be a great reflection of this program. I think that would mean the most to me, it reflecting Coach Fred Whittingham, Coach Whittingham and Coach Ludwig, and what they’ve sacrificed and done to get me in this position.”

Other things on my mind

• The big winner at Utah Pro Day appeared to be Mohamoud Diabate. The middle linebacker was an NFL Combine snub earlier this month, but performed well in the East-West Shrine Bowl in early February, and his stock has moved towards day 3 territory.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah Mohamoud Diabate runs during a drill at Utah Pro Day Thursday at the Eccles Field House, March 23, 2023.

There was no laser timing on Thursday, so Diabate clocking a 4.52 40-yard dash should be considered unofficial, but a 34-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot broad jump will certainly help Diabate’s cause.

Branden Carlson opting to go through the NBA Draft process this spring comes as no surprise. If Utah’s fourth-year junior center had chosen to merely return and not test the waters, that certainly would have raised some eyebrows.

We have touched on the fact before that Carlson is not your average college student. Returned missionary, so he’s older, married, wife is in law school, so maybe he’s in no position to just pick up and move, but the important thing to remember as things play out is to assume nothing. Don’t assume he’s simply coming back, don’t assume he’s leaving because he’s older, don’t assume he wouldn’t hit the transfer portal, at least to see what’s out there.

Did that last one get your attention? Good. We’re living in a different time and place in college athletics than even when Carlson first showed up at Utah in 2019.

Assume nothing.

• On paper, it feels like the winner of Friday afternoon’s Sweet 16 matchup between Utah and LSU will be the favorite in Sunday’s regional final against either Miami or Villanova.

There is a case to be made that Friday is the biggest game in Utah women’s basketball history. A regional final with a trip to the Final Four on the line would be bigger, but one thing at a time. Friday is massive for this program.

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