PROVO — When Devin Mahina arrived at BYU as a freshman in 2010, he was looking to be the next in a long line of outstanding tight ends for the Cougars.
Dennis Pitta and Andrew George had just finished their eligibility, with Pitta going to the National Football League.
However, BYU’s tight end tradition has practically disappeared over the past four years. Part of that is due to changes at offensive coordinator and offensive schemes during that stretch.
In his career, Mahina has put up modest numbers for the Cougars — 26 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns — and things certainly haven’t gone the way he had hoped.
Well, the senior from Upland, California, has one more chance to make his mark.
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” Mahina said. “I know this year is going to be a good one for me and for the team. The tight ends are ready to return to glory.”
Mahina is looking for tight ends to contribute more to the offense than they have in the recent past.
“I sure hope it is better than what it’s been. I’m hoping for big things from us,” he said. “I’m hoping to be a threat in the red zone. I’m hoping to be a third-down receiver. When we need a first down, I need to be that guy (quarterback) Taysom (Hill) can turn to and throw the ball to.”
Has the lack of impact from tight ends been a product of the scheme or the failure of players stepping up?
“I think it’s been a little bit of both,” Mahina said. “It’s been partly the scheme. We’ve had (BYU’s all-time leading receiver) Cody Hoffman in the past. He’s been a great receiver and he caught a lot of balls. With him gone, it’s open.”
In recent years, BYU has gone away from using the traditional tight end, but Mahina expects to be more involved in the offense this season.
“From my perspective, we’ve changed with more three-point stance formations this year,” he said. “That’s helped me out tremendously. I’m a traditional tight end. I’m going to get in the trenches and block and also do some route running out of a three-point stance.”
Mahina has set big goals for his senior year.
“Honestly, I have high expectations for myself. I want to be in the talk for the John Mackey Award (emblematic of the nation’s top tight end),” he said. “Ever since I’ve been playing football, I’ve wanted to win an award like that, just like Taysom probably wants to win the Heisman. I’ve been working on a lot in order to become a great player.”
Just before the 2011 season opener, Mahina suffered a neck injury that sidelined him for the year. That meant he missed the game at Texas, an opponent that holds special significance for him.
Mahina has a host of relatives on his mother’s side of the family that live near Austin, Texas. He’s glad he’ll get a chance to face Texas when the Cougars invade Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Sept. 6.
“I have family there and they’re huge Longhorns fans. I’m excited to make them upset,” Mahina said with a smile.
But Texas will have revenge on its mind. The Cougars crushed the Longhorns last September in Provo, 40-21.
“My relatives will be at the game and I’m excited to show them up again,” Mahina said. “They have love for me because I’m their cousin, but you could tell they were disappointed in the Longhorns. It’s a huge game this year. I hope that stadium is packed and I hope we win.”
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company