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BYU football: Cougars to bring back pass-catching tight ends during spring ball

Brigham Young Cougars tight end Bryan Sampson (85) jumps on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown  in Provo  Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.
Brigham Young Cougars tight end Bryan Sampson (85) jumps on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in Provo Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU is gradually bringing back the tight end to its offense.

Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer is holding auditions for the position during spring practices.

Among those getting reps at tight end include Josh Weeks, Bryan Sampson and Tanner Balderree, though Balderree is being used primarily as a run-blocking tight end. Other tight ends listed on the spring roster include Steven Richards, Cole Wilstead, Chad Cather and Cody Savage.

“Having a tight end-by-committee is a great thing if we have multiple guys who can go in and play and with two tight-end sets,” Detmer said. “That’s kind of the evaluation process right now to see what we can do with what we have to work with.”

“We’re experimenting with different guys there,” said quarterback Tanner Mangum said of the tight ends. “We’re trying out different things to see what works out best for us. That’s what spring ball is for, to see what works best and putting the right guys in the right positions. That position is coming along. A lot of it is getting the right guys and the right mix. We’re working on that. We’re trying to build on that.”

Once a staple of BYU offenses, the Cougars went away from utilizing a pass-catching tight end in recent seasons under former offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

From the time he was hired at BYU a few months ago, Detmer has been adamant about implementing the tight end, and sometimes more than one tight end, in his offense.

BYU boasts 10 All-America tight ends in its history — Clay Brown, Gordon Hudson, David Mills, Trevor Molini, Chris Smith, Byron Rex, Chad Lewis, Itula Mili, Jonny Harline and Dennis Pitta.

PLAYING BOTH WAYS: As part of the spring evaluation process, a number of BYU players are playing both offense and defense. Among those include sophomore Akile Davis and freshman Troy Warner.

Detmer is hoping this cross-training will provide the Cougars with increased depth.

“They’ve been great. They’re both big-play type of guys,” Detmer said of Davis and Warner. “It’s trying to give them a foundation on both sides so if we have some injuries we can fill gaps as needed and have as many of those types of guys. Same with the fullback and linebacker. I know Harvey Langi has played some running back in the past. The more guys can do, the more valuable they are to the team. We can plug up some holes if we have some injuries.”

How do the coaches decide where players will spend most of their time?

“The conversation is what’s best for the team,” Detmer said. “More stops on third downs and more pass breakups can give the offense more opportunities. We’re all on the same page as a coaching staff on what’s going to be best for the team at that time. We’ve had those conversations. Right now, it’s let’s get them some time on both sides and we’ll see where we’re at come fall and what our numbers look like.”

WHAT ABOUT TEJAN?: Two-year starting center Tejan Koroma is not enrolled in school this semester for undisclosed reasons.

Via social media, Koroma has recently expressed a desire to return to the Cougars.

Detmer was asked last Friday about Koroma’s status.

“A lot of that is waiting to see what happens with his process. I don’t know where that’s at,” Detmer said. “We hope he’s doing great. We love Tejan as a person and we hope he’s on the right track and getting things in order. That’s all we really know right now.”