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How Utah’s Miki Suguturaga, Thomas Yassmin are filling roles at tight end

Miki Suguturaga was moved from the defensive line to tight end during the offseason

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Utah Utes’ Thomas Yassmin runs the ball for a touchdown while playing the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 championship.

Utah Utes’ Thomas Yassmin runs the ball for a touchdown while playing the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 championship at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. The Utes won 47-24.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

While Utah’s Brant Kuithe is rehabbing from a season-ending injury and is expected to be ready to go next fall, other tight ends are getting reps during spring practices. 

Miki Suguturaga was moved from the defensive line to tight end during the offseason. 

“It’s going good, so far,” he said. “I’m getting more into the idea of offense.”

The 6-foot-4, 256-pound junior from Kaneohe, Hawaii, said the transition hasn’t been easy.  

“It was kind of difficult at first because I spent so much time at D-end in high school as well, playing defense,” he said. “I tried to switch over in high school to play tight end a little bit but it didn’t work out. It was difficult at first but I came around to it and I felt like it was the right choice for me and for the team.”

Since making the change, Suguturaga has received help from his fellow tight ends. 

“Everything I’ve learned has been because of Brant, Thomas (Yassmin) and Munir (McClain), all of those guys,” he said. “I really appreciate them for making me feel welcome.” 

Yassmin contributed a year ago in Kuithe’s absence, catching 13 passes for 301 yards and six touchdowns. 

Now, he gives the Utes more depth going into the 2023 season.

“I expect Thomas Yassmin to step up and be able to fill a role there,” said tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham. 

This season, the 6-5, 248-pound senior is becoming more of a leader.

“I’m one of the older guys. I’m 23. I’m definitely taking on that leadership role and I’m in a position where I’m trying to take that up as much as I can,” Yassmin said. “On the field, I’m going to do what I did last year on a greater scale, to establish myself this offseason as a blocking tight end as a true ‘Y’ tight end. I’m working a lot on that.”

Yassmin, who hails from Sydney, Australia, arrived at Utah in 2018 having never played American football before. He played rugby at The Scots College in New South Wales.

Last season, quarterback Cam Rising explained why he likes throwing to Yassmin. 

“That guy’s just a specimen — that’s the best way to put it. He’s as big as you want a tight end to be and he’s as fast as a receiver,” he said. “He does a great job just having that rugby background. You want to get the ball in his hands as fast as you can so that he can run and handle the rest. I’m looking forward to getting him the ball.”

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said Suguturaga can be a route runner in this offense, not just a blocker. 

Meanwhile, Noah Bennee switched from wide receiver to tight end. 

“We moved Noah Bennee from wide receiver to tight end and he really looks good. He’s done some really good things,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “We moved Miki Suguturaga from D-end to tight end and that looks like a good move for us. He’s going to pick up some of the slack when Logan Kendall left. He’s a real physical, line-of-scrimmage tight end.”

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Utah’s Miki Suguturaga looks on during spring practice at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Suguturaga was moved from the defensive line to tight end this year.

Hunter Dyke, Utah Athletics