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Isaac Rex expects to be ready to roll when BYU opens fall camp

BYU’s big tight end reports his surgery was perfectly executed by Los Angeles surgeon Dr. Joseph Patterson at Los Angeles County Hospital. Rex’s injury, a pilon fracture, is healing and Rex believes he’ll be good to go when the Cougars open fall camp in Provo.

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BYU’s Isaac Rex catches a TD pass during game against Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Sept. 18, 2021.

BYU tight end Isaac Rex catches a TD pass during game against Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

A year ago, Isaac Rex was basking in the memories of a 2020 season in which he tied Florida’s Kyle Pitts for the most touchdowns caught by a tight end. He rode the Zach Wilson train and had a front-row seat.

Today, Rex walks the sidelines of BYU’s Indoor Practice Facility and watches from a distance as Dallin Holker is having a career-changing experience building chemistry with QB Jaren Hall.

It’s been three months since BYU’s 6-foot-6 ball-snatcher suffered a broken ankle in the end zone at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the Cougars’ win over USC.

It was a freaky kind of injury called a pilon fracture. A pilon fracture is a break of the shinbone (tibia) that happens near the ankle. Rex had to wait two weeks to get surgeries done and have screws placed in the bone.

The work was done by Dr. Joseph Patterson at Los Angeles County Hospital, who Rex said graduated No. 1 in his class at Yale. “I feel I was in good hands and he did a great job. I was told he did about as perfect of a job with the surgery as could be done.”

The update?

Rex is walking around and expects to be running in three weeks. He’s currently doing some squats in the weight room, working on his lower body and he has been lifting (bench pressing) all along. He fully expects to be 100% ready when fall camp opens in August.

“It gets sore after rehab. It’s a matter of regaining my range of motion and building up strength right now,” he said. “I’m doing more leg exercises now.”

Rex caught 18 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns last season. The year before, he finished with 31 catches for 429 yards and 12 TDs.

The tight ends group has not only missed Rex this spring but Masen Wake as well.

Many wonder why Rex’s numbers were down for last year and the simple answer is that offensive coordinator Aaron Roderickdeployed a lot of 12 personnel formations. 

When you use 12 personnel, it means you bring in two tight ends and have one running back. Much of Tyler Allgeier’s success in breaking open big runs, which set a school record for a season, was due to the blocking by Rex, Wake and Holker both at the line and down field.

Also, Roderick called a lot of downfield strikes for Samson Nacua, Puka Nacuaand Gunner Romney. He utilized receiver options downfield near the goal line in mismatches. The year before, Rex got a lot of those calls when there were no Nacua brothers, just Romney, and to some extent, Neil Pau’u.

Rex said he is impressed with Holker, (Stanford transfer) Houston Heimuli and the other tight ends in the group.

Head coach Kalani Sitake said he is “very pleased” with how seven spring practices have gone so far. Where there is competition for positions, he isn’t in a rush to find solutions. Most battles will continue into fall camp.

“We have an idea of what it will look like but we aren’t in a rush,” he said. 

Some of those position battles include the offensive line, running back and QB pecking order to back up Hall. With linebackers Payton Wilgarand Keenan Pili out, Sitake said that position group won’t be decided until they are able to compete after rehabbing from surgery. 

Roderick and O-line coach Darrell Funk have the luxury of using a lot of blocking schemes and personnel besides the tight ends in 2022. There are 10 offensive linemen with playing time under their belts that are being used in different combinations. “There definitely is going to be the ability to rotate players,” said Sitake.

“Some of the linemen think they can play running back,” added Sitake. That’s something BYU hasn’t done since defensive nose guard Khyiris Tonga lined up in the backfield.

Rex is one more link to a highly touted high school prospect from the West Coast.

BYU is heavily recruiting Folsom (California) tight end Walker Lyons, a class of 2023 recruit who is considered among the top tight ends in the nation with offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Georgia and a host of other top schools.

Rex said he used to live by Lyons before moving to San Clemente and has worked out with him. He also noted that Lyons’ cousin Truman Andrus is a linebacker on BYU’s team.  “Walker is a stud. BYU would get a good one if they got him, but everybody is recruiting him. He is a hard worker and has talent, plus he is a real good guy.”