Three reasons Utah is expecting ‘explosive plays’ from its tight ends this fall
Brant Kuithe, Cole Fotheringham and Dalton Kincaid have experience, athleticism and the ability to be vertical threats in the passing game
With the athleticism and experience that Utah tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham has at his disposal, no wonder he’s optimistic about what that position could produce within the Ute offense in 2021.
“We’re blessed to have a number of different players at this position currently in the program that can play at a very high level.” — Freddie Whittingham
“It’s always a good problem to have to have good depth at a position,” Whittingham said. “That does give us a lot of versatility as far as formations and things that we can do with three tight ends in the game, for sure … We’re blessed to have a number of different players at this position currently in the program that can play at a very high level. It’s our job as coaches to put them in those positions to be able to make the plays.”
This trio of tight ends boasts significant experience.
Kuithe (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) has played in 33 games, accumulating 1,065 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 150 yards and three TDs.
Fotheringham (6-4, 245) has recorded 37 receptions for 398 yards in 33 career games for the Utes.
“Cole is vitally important to the tight end room and the team as a whole. He’s on the leadership counsel, elected by his peers. He’s been a three-year starter in this offense,” Whittingham said. “Cole is an outstanding run-blocker. He has some of the best hands you’ll see for a tight end. He can really catch the ball.
“He’s worked on his speed and explosiveness in the offseason. You see that show up in practice. He’s another guy that’s an every-down tight end that can make plays in both the run game and the throw game. He’s a guy that will help us play some championship football.”
Kincaid (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) is the relative newcomer in the group, having transferred to Utah from the University of San Diego, an FCS school, last year. He received a waiver from the NCAA that made him eligible for the 2020 season. Kincaid tallied a 14-yard catch against USC.
Kincaid’s main sport growing up was basketball but after transferring to a new high school, Faith Lutheran in Las Vegas, his hoops-playing buddies convinced him to try a different sport — so he only played one year of high school football.
At USD, Kincaid caught 44 passes for 935 yards and eight touchdowns 2019. Kincaid led all FCS tight ends in yards per catch (18.98) and ranked second in receiving yards.
“Dalton was a great find for us,” Whittingham said. “He had a lot of success at the University of San Diego at the FCS level. He’s got a lot of great experience.”
“He’s tall and he’s fast. He can stretch the field. He can go up and grab the ball. He adds another element to our tight end group and the overall offense as a playmaker,” Kuithe said of Kincaid. “If we have all the guys that we have on the field, I don’t see there’s any way that anybody can stop us. We can stretch the field with him. If we implement everybody in the offense and get guys the ball, it’s going to be a great year.”
Now that Kincaid has been in the program for a while, “he’s more comfortable with the offense, he knows the scheme. He’s got a lot of talents in both the run game and the passing game,” Whittingham said.
“I think we can get Dalton involved as a vertical threat as a tight end. We can get him involved in a number of different ways because he’s got the complete package when it comes to an every-down tight end. He’s got good size, he’s got good physicality, he runs well, he’s very athletic. He’s got very good hands.”
Kincaid says he feels more acclimated with the offense, and his teammates, this spring.
“Cole and Brant have been a huge help with learning the playbook and tips and tricks on the field. At this level, the guys are bigger, faster, stronger,” he said. “They’re both a big help, learning from them. We all benefit each other in some way. It’s constructive criticism.”
For Whittingham, it’s crucial that his players are always looking to improve their fundamentals and technique. That will reveal itself in both the passing game and the running game.
“As an offense, it’s our job to put them in a position to be successful on the field and make explosive plays. One of the things we can look at is ways to get the ball pushed down the field to them in the passing game,” Whittingham said. “I think we have a number of different players in the tight end group that can get separation in the passing game. But it all starts with the run game.
“If we’re successful in the run game with them being able to be great run blockers, it puts the defense in a little bit of a dilemma because they have to decide if they want to load up the box and put a bunch of linebackers in there. If they do, we feel like we should have a mismatch with these guys to be able to push the ball downfield in the throw game.”