Every BYU quarterback knows when he takes the field in Provo that he will immediately starting drawing comparisons to the great names of the past:
Will he have the athleticism of Steve Young? The big arm of Jim McMahon? The fiery competitiveness of Ty Detmer?
While the Cougar quarterback history has been tremendous, BYU also has a legacy of great players at tight end that is tough to beat.
So what is it like for Cougar players like junior Matt Bushman, senior Moroni Laulu-Pututau and freshman Hank Tuipulotu to have the shadows of Gordon Hudson, Chris Smith, Chad Lewis, Jonny Harline and Dennis Pitta looming behind them?
“It’s something you keep in the back of your mind but it’s not like you feel like you have to make these plays or be this type of tight end so I can be remembered among the tradition of tight ends,” Bushman said at BYU football Media Day last week. “I think it’s good to keep in the back of your head so that you pick up the slack and try to be a team that has dominant tight ends.”
He said he doesn’t feel pressure and referenced comments made by players like Portland Trailblazer basketball star Damian Lillard about comparing sports pressure to life-and-death pressure situations.
“This is a sport,” Bushman said. “It takes up a huge part of our lives but it is more just excitement to want to be better. As a team and as a unit, Coach Steve Clark has mentioned that we have potential to be one of the best tight end units in the country. If we can do that, that’s great.”
He said that the unit will benefit if all of the athletes do well and not just rely on one guy to do it all.
“Look at Iowa last year,” he said. “They two guys drafted in the first round. I don’t have to be the only tight end who is making plays. I think the more tight ends who are players out there, the better. If Moroni is healthy and we are both out there together, I think that will be a dominant offense where defenses won’t really know what to do. That will open up the offense in so many ways.”
Clark explained that many of the more experienced tight ends were very involved with teaching the younger guys during the offseason. Now he wants that to translate into improvement on the details when everyone gets on the field.
“I want to see them be more detail-oriented in steps and hand positions and depths on routes and reading coverages,” Clark said. “There are a million things involved because at tight end you are involved in the full pass game, the full run game and a lot of the protections. There is a ton to know — but that’s what makes it so fun to coach. You are involved with everything.”
Bushman said that he believes the BYU offense is showing signs that it can be at the level necessary for one or more tight ends to really shine.
“Our offensive line is getting bigger and more experienced, which is definitely a plus,” Bushman said. “Having Zach Wilson back at quarterback, everyone wants to make plays for him because he expects a lot from us and we know what he can accomplish. It’s a really exciting time.”
He believes the next step is putting everything together.
“As the summer goes on, all of us as a team need to put in the work,” Bushman said. “It’s not just clocking in when we have workouts but putting in the extra work where we need to get better at. We want to be as consistent as we can for Game 1. We want to be as prepared as we can be for Utah. A lot of times at the beginning of the season teams have little breakdowns that cost them the game. We want to be as seasoned as we can because this is a big game for us. We need to be confident, to know that we can be a great team instead of just hoping we can be that good.”