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BYU football: Tight end position undergoes overhaul in Robert Anae's new offensive system

Published: Monday, Aug. 19 2013 11:45 a.m. MDT

Coach Robert Anae watches the offense as BYU wraps up spring football practices April 5 with a scrimmage game for the alumni at LaVell Edwards Stadium. 
 (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Coach Robert Anae watches the offense as BYU wraps up spring football practices April 5 with a scrimmage game for the alumni at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO — Big changes have come to the BYU offense, and no position group likely reflects that change more than tight end.

The position group is undergoing a major overhaul in how the players line up, how they’ll be used and the body-types making up the group.

In fact, it may not be accurate to call them tight ends anymore.

“You can call them tight ends, slot receivers — whatever you want. I just hope they make plays,” said former BYU tight end and current position coach Andrew George. “Inside receivers is what we call them — at least the guys I coach, but we’ll use them in a variety of ways in this offense.”

George’s position group consists of traditional tight end types such as Kaneakua Friel (6-5, 261) and Devin Mahina (6-6, 247), along with short, shifty guys such as JD Falslev (5-8, 175) and Eric Thornton (5-10, 180), who was recently switched to cornerback.

Tight end Kaneakua Friel during BYU media day  Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Provo.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Tight end Kaneakua Friel during BYU media day Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Provo. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“The guys who line up inside are the guys I coach,” George explained. “Using different types at inside receiver gives us more variety as an offense, and should help create some good matchups in certain situations against different opponents.”

The group also consists of hybrid-type receivers like Brett Thompson (6-3, 220) and Terenn Houk (6-4, 213.)

Both players have made strides during offseason practice sessions and workouts.

“I think this offense really helps guys like Terenn and Brett Thompson, and both those guys have really played well,” George says. “Brett has been limited a bit with a hip flexor injury, but he should play a big role for us, and Terenn is really starting to come on in practices.”

According to Thompson, the new offense fits him, and his abilities, like a glove.

BYU tight end Devin Mahina during BYU media day  Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Provo.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) BYU tight end Devin Mahina during BYU media day Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Provo. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“When coach Anae sat down and explained to us the offense he’d run, I got very excited,” Thompson says. “I’m a bigger receiver, but I wouldn’t consider myself a true tight end, but this offense is just great — perfect really for an athlete like me and my strengths.”

Of course the traditional tight end isn’t completely going away from the Cougar offense. The bigger type of inside receivers will still be used to block off the line in tight formation, but will likely be used primarily as a so-called H-back.

The H-back is employed primarily as a fullback/tight end hybrid type who lines up just behind the offensive tackle. Players such as Friel, Richard Wilson (6-3, 245) and Iona Pritchard (6-0, 232) will be used at the position.

“In a lot of our plays we’ll bring that H-back across the formation to give a little misdirection look to the defense,” George explained. “It’s a little harder for the defense to see where the ball is going. So we can add another blocker into our zone read (option), we can release him to lead block for quarterback keepers, or we can use them as receivers even. It just gives us a lot more different options and ability to give different looks.”

JD Falslev stretches out trying for a ball as BYU football practices and scrimmages Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 at Lavell Edwards stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) JD Falslev stretches out trying for a ball as BYU football practices and scrimmages Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 at Lavell Edwards stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Which players will be used most, and how they’ll primarily line up, is yet to be determined, but players believe it will work out for the best.

“We all want to play, obviously, but each of us want the team to win — that takes priority over everything,” Thompson said. “Going into the season, we really don’t know how many reps we’ll get, but we’re completely confident in the coaching staff to do what’s best. It’s exciting what coaches are doing, and we’ll be better on offense because of all the changes.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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