There are the X’s and O’s of Utah football — and within the framework Utes’ offense, figuratively speaking, K is for Kuithe, and K is for Kincaid. 

The K’s are sure-handed receivers and proven playmakers. K-Squared cause headaches for opposing defenses. 

And based on their experience, what they’ve accomplished, and their potential, Utah tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid could have declared for the NFL draft last winter. 

But they both opted to return to the U. for one more season. 

And now that spring practices are underway, they’re glad to be back with their teammates. 

“It’s exciting. It’s my last spring ball. I have a whole new energy,” Kincaid said. “I feel young again. It’s weird saying it as a 22-year-old. It’s my last year so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”

“It’s another year of college life and being with the guys,” Kuithe said. “I’m just enjoying it right now.”

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Tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham, of course, was thrilled to welcome Kuithe and Kincaid back. 

“It was just great news. I feel like (Kuithe) had some things that he wanted to accomplish his senior year, individually and as a team, and I couldn’t be happier about him and Dalton coming back,” he said.

Whittingham added that both Kuithe and Kincaid were invited to the NFL combine but they decided to remain with the Utes. 

“Both of them felt like there were things in their individual games and personal development to work on,” he said. “Also, because of the COVID year, this draft is kind of overloaded with players, especially at the tight end position. They both made a business decision as well to stick around for their senior year here and put themselves in a great position for the following year’s draft.”

Another talented tight end, Cole Fotheringham, decided to make himself eligible for the NFL draft and he participated in pro day last week. 

But the K’s are back. 

Last season, Kuithe was Utah’s leading receiver. He caught 50 passes for 611 yards and six touchdowns. 

The three-time All-Pac-12 tight end has 129 career catches — the most by a Utah tight end since 1996 — for 1,670 yards. Kuithe also led the team in receptions in 2019 and 2020. He’s played in 47 career games. 

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“He’s going to be a very valuable part of our offense. He’s so productive. He’s battle-tested and a proven commodity. He’s a big-play guy. He’s a threat after the catch and great hands,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s a good blocker. He’s not the biggest guy but he can do everything we need him to do in the blocking game. We don’t ask him to do a whole lot. But he’s a guy that’s a big-play capability guy that’s made a ton of plays for us over the last three years.”

Kuithe, who plays all over the field to exploit mismatches with opposing defenses, will do more of the same this fall. 

“I see myself moving everywhere. There’s not one position I play,” he said. “You’ll see it this year and in spring ball. There’s not one particular position that I’m at. I’m at every single one.”

Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid catches a touchdown during the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Kincade and fellow tight end Brant Kuithe both opted to return in 2022 rather than make themselves available for this year’s NFL draft. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Kincaid was No. 3 in receiving with 36 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns. 

One of his most memorable touchdowns came in the waning moments of the Rose Bowl, when he hauled in a 15-yard pass from backup Bryson Barnes that tied the game at 45-apiece. 

What was it like to score a TD like that? 

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me that question,” Kincaid said. “There’s no way to describe it. You kind of black out for a little bit and then focus on the next drive. That’s about it.”

After the season-opening victory against Weber State last season, Kyle Whittingham praised Kincaid’s abilities. 

“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,” he said. “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 (in the opener), he’ll get more touches and more reps.”

In 2022, the K’s are running it back — and they’ll certainly catch a lot more passes and score a lot more touchdowns for the Utes.