Utah’s offense has been sputtering for most of the 2021 season and is looking for playmakers to step up and make big contributions.
One of those playmakers could be tight end Dalton Kincaid.
The 6-foot-4, 242-pound junior from Las Vegas hauled in an impressive, 27-yard catch in the Utes’ most recent win over Washington State, leaving some to wonder why Kincaid isn’t targeted more often.
Utes on the air
Utah (2-2, 1-0)
at USC (3-2, 2-2)
Saturday, 6 p.m. MDT
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Radio: ESPN 700
This season, Kincaid has recorded nine catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. His 16.4 yards-per-reception ranks No. 2 among tight ends in the Pac-12. He had four catches for a Utah career-best 75 yards against Weber State in the opener and had a season-best 37-yard reception against BYU.
“Dalton Kincaid is, I think, the best-kept secret in the Pac-12. I’ve been saying that in camp and in several interviews. You saw what he can do,” coach Kyle Whittingham said after the Weber State game. “He’s a tremendous athlete. Great size, speed for a tight end. He’s the whole package. He’s a weapon for us. If he continues to play like he did tonight, he’ll get more touches and more reps.”
Yet Kincaid’s route to Utah experienced some twists and turns.
He played only one season of high school football, at Faith Lutheran High in Las Vegas — and he earned all-state honors.
“I played all sports. My parents put me in sports and I loved them,” Kincaid said. “I had to narrow it down. I focused on basketball and ended up transferring to another high school. All my buddies convinced me to play football.”
Once he started playing football, he proved to be a natural. That led him to the University of San Diego from 2018-19.
“I loved every minute I spent at San Diego. It’s a great program and super successful,” Kincaid said. “The people there are great and the coaches cared a lot about developing players. Utah’s been just as great if not better. The coaches are great and I’ve loved it here so far.”
“He can do some things down the field vertically that a lot of tight ends simply aren’t able to do.” — tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham on Dalton Kincaid
The USD program does not offer athletic scholarships, so Kincaid was essentially a walk-on.
“Everyone that was on that team played basically by choice. Nobody was getting anything to play there. No scholarships,” he said. “That was a big part of it. They had no reason to play there except for the will and love of football.”
In 2019, Kincaid led all FCS tight ends in receiving yards (835) and receiving yards per game (69.6). He recorded a season-high 152 receiving yards on six catches and a touchdown at Cal Poly.
Then he signed with Utah in August 2020, just before the season was truncated by the pandemic. Kincaid played in all five games and had one reception for 14 yards against USC.
The Utes visit the Trojans Saturday (6 p.m. MDT, Fox).
Utah tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham said Kincaid has benefited from having more time in the program.
“He joined us last summer, before the 2020 season. He didn’t have a bunch of time to get acclimated into the program, into the system. The COVID season, we weren’t playing, then we were playing again. With a full cycle in the program, he knows the scheme and his talent can emerge and can shine,” Whittingham said. “He can do some things down the field vertically that a lot of tight ends simply aren’t able to do.
“He’s a heckuva player and we’re blessed to have a bunch of guys in that room that can play at a high level,” he continued. “The more guys that we have in that category, the more we can be diverse and spread the ball around. He’s a huge part of that identity of getting the ball into the playmakers’ hands.”
Kincaid feels more comfortable in the program.
“Chemistry’s the biggest thing with that. Being able to spend a lot more time around the guys,” he said. “Chemistry’s a huge part of successful football teams. Just developing that.
“A lot of it was getting used to this level of football. Bigger, faster and stronger, as everyone says,” Kincaid added. “It’s getting more in touch with the playbook and being surrounded by a bunch of weapons on the offense. Creating those mismatches that defenses can’t guard.”
Kincaid is committed to helping the offense find its identity and make plays.
“It’s nothing individual. It’s the group as a whole,” he said. “It’s getting the offense clicking and going. I just do what’s asked of me.”
Utah’s tights end coach knows the offense, including his tight ends group, needs to play a big role in the Utes’ offensive identity.
“We have a lot of playmakers. Our offensive identity has to be getting the ball into the hands of our playmakers,” Freddie Whittingham said. “We’ve got a lot of guys on the offensive side of the ball that can make plays. You look at the fourth quarter of the (San Diego State) game, that’s the offense that we have a good shot of being — playing fast, aggressively and wearing the other team down. That’s going to be our offensive identity.”