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What does Cougars’ tight end depth look like with surprise departure of Dallin Holker?

Starter Isaac Rex says he’s almost 100% recovered from ankle surgery and ready for more playing time, while backups Ethan Erickson and Carter Wheat move up the depth chart

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Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) runs for a touchdown at Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

BYU tight end Isaac Rex scores a touchdown at Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Rex says he’s almost back to being 100% healthy, which is a good thing with the surprise news that Dallin Holker is leaving the program.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark told the Deseret News in August that he had one of the deepest and most talented tight end groups in his seven seasons at the school.

BYU fans are about to find out just how deep it is.

Tuesday night’s stunning announcement from the father of Dallin Holker that the backup tight end has left the team and plans to enter the transfer portal in December and go “somewhere that will utilize their tight ends and allow him to get on the field and help his team,” puts Clark’s assertion to the test.

“I think it has the potential to be as good as we’ve had. But right now, we are not there, no. We have the potential to be there.” — BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark in August on the tight ends group

Of course, the Cougars still have redshirt sophomore Isaac Rex, the TE1 who has caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown this season. Rex’s 28-yard TD catch put the Cougars on the board in last week’s 41-20 loss to Oregon in which, ironically, Holker caught five passes for 38 yards.

Coming off offseason ankle surgery, Rex said Monday that he is “getting close to 100%” and has been feeling healthy.

“I am still working up,” Rex said. “Obviously, that ankle injury (recovery) is an ongoing process. … I feel like I have been playing good, but I feel like I can still improve. I am still rehabbing and still working on it. But I am happy with how I have progressed throughout the season.”

Holker apparently wasn’t happy, despite having caught nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown so far this season.

In 2020, while Holker was finishing up missionary service, Rex led the country’s tight ends with 12 touchdown catches. Last year, Holker caught 14 passes for 200 yards and a TD, while Rex’s numbers were also down. Before sustaining that devastating ankle injury against USC, Rex caught 18 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns.

So who becomes TE2 now?

The obvious candidate is sophomore Carter Wheat, who has appeared in two games but doesn’t have a reception. Another is Ethan Erickson, a freshman from Laie, Hawaii, who Clark raved about during preseason training camp.

Erickson, 6-foot-5, 230, played in the South Florida game, but hasn’t seen the field since. 

“Ethan needs to put on a little bit of weight,” Clark said in August. “But (with) route running and hands and flexibility, he’s been good.”

Senior tight end Lane Lunt, 6-4, 235, played in 12 games last year, mostly on special teams, and is also an option. Former tight end Ben Ward moved to the offensive line in the offseason.

Fullbacks Masen Wake and Houston Heimuli meet with the tight ends and could also see increased playing time.

“I think it has the potential to be as good as we’ve had,” Clark said on Aug. 16. “But right now, we are not there, no. We have the potential to be there.”

Asked before the 26-20 win over Baylor whether the tight ends would see more passes in the absence of star receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney, Rex said they were willing and able.

“Whatever they want us to do, we are willing to do it. Catch, block, do whatever,” Rex said. “I feel like they could use us more (with WRs hurt). But hey, we are here to do what the coaches tell us.”


Cougars on the air

Wyoming (3-1) at No. 19 BYU (2-1)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM