PROVO — As of Thursday, BYU senior tight end still wasn’t practicing.

Laulu-Pututau, who underwent season-ending knee surgery last fall, has been sidelined for academic reasons. 

“There are two issues, his test scores and his knee,” tight ends coach Steve Clark said. “We’ll know Monday.”

Clark is confident that Laulu-Pututau will be able to contribute “at some point” this season.

“There are two issues, his test scores and his knee. We’ll know Monday.” — BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark, on Moroni Laulu-Pututau

“First game? I don’t know. We don’t know until we get him out on the field and see how he does,” he said. “He’s been cleared (physically) but he hasn’t played football. When you get out on the field, it’s a little different. We have to test him and see how he does. He hasn’t played in a year. You can do so much rehab but when you get out on the field, you’ll be able to know what you can do, especially at tight end playing in the box. We’ll see how he does. We’ll take it slow with him.”

The Cougars are counting on Laulu-Pututau and junior Matt Bushman to provide experience and playmaking ability to the offense. 

Clark said Bushman, who led the team in receptions (29) and yards (511) last season, has been making a lot of big plays during fall camp and that he’s “stronger and more confident” than last year. 

“We know he can catch the ball and he’s fast,” Clark said. “We need tight ends that can block and run the ball. We need that from him.”

Bushman said his chemistry with quarterback Zach Wilson has improved. 

“We both had our shoulders fixed this offseason. We were in the training room together almost every day doing rehab,” Bushman said. “We got to know each other. I feel really comfortable with him. I trust him a lot. Our relationship is growing as a friendship and as teammates. I really like the chemistry going into this year. We just hope to keep getting better.”

As for the other tight ends in the group, sophomore Joe Tukuafu hasn’t been practicing due to a knee injury. 

“Joe hurt his knee and we’re bringing him back slowly,” Clark said. “He should be ready to go. He banged his knee. Nothing was torn, but he’s sore right now.”

Freshman Carter Wheat has made an impression during camp, Clark said. 

“Carter Wheat is going to be really good. He’s a great route-runner. He’s really quick and fast. He is a freshman, so there’s some weight issues. We’ve got to keep weight on him. But he can play. I’m really happy with him.”

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Other freshmen in the group include Isaac Rex and Alema Pilimai. 

“Isaac Rex is a big, tall kid. They’re right off missions and it’s not fair for us to ask them to jump in and be ready to go. He’s been back six weeks,” Clark said. “Pilimai has been home for a month. They both picked it up great. That’s why Carter Wheat is kind of ahead of them right now, because he played last year and he hasn’t been off for two years. We’re bringing those guys along slowly.” 

Clark also coaches the fullbacks and he’s been pleased with freshman Masen Wake.

“He’s really physical. I’m really happy to have him with us,” Clark said. “They’re freshmen, so you don’t know what you have until they go out and do it.”

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